Written by: Katie Packham– Senior Agency Marketing Manager, Racepoint Global London

Acknowledging and addressing mental health in the workplace is now, thankfully and rightfully, a top priority for businesses the world over.  This is a subject that the public relations industry is tackling head on and Monday’s well attended PRCA event showcased how individuals are bravely confronting mental health while also highlighting the perception gap between management and employees on what the former still generally view as a taboo subject.

A common theme that resonated throughout the evening was the pressing need to break down the stigma we have created about ourselves as an industry. PR professionals have created a ‘can do’ culture where there is a belief we have to be switched on and accessible 24/7 to manage an ever changing news cycle. But this myth needs to change and it needs to start with senior leaders and agency owners.

A Mental Health study that the PRCA and PR Week conducted in January showed that 49% of the industry feel under more stress this year compared to 2018. One in five respondents felt their employers were supportive of their mental wellbeing, compared to 60% of employers who thought they were supportive, highlighting a significant perception gap between bosses and their staff.

Unfortunately, some senior leaders still view mental health as a performance-related issue but this is a gross misperception. Staff with mental health illnesses need to be more open and communicate with their line mangers and peers to make sure they receive the help and support needed from their company. This will start happening but only when we see the industry embracing a culture shift towards being empathetic and more understanding to managing mental health within the workplace.

One suggestion is to appeal to senior management in a language they comprehend; numbers. We need to re-brand mental wellbeing from an illness to a strategic enabler. It can help the bottom line. Poor awareness of mental health costs UK businesses up to £42billion a year and impacts the overall UK economy to the tune of £99billion.

However, the event ended on a high note and as an industry it was widely acknowledged that we are becoming more aware of mental wellbeing in the workplace. Having the right conversations, training staff and putting mental health policies in place is only the start.