PR Leaders Urged to Create Supportive Culture, Offer Programs to Combat Mental Health Issues

A career in PR and communications attracts people for a variety of reasons. Yet PR also is listed among the top 10 most stressful occupations. In addition, the profession is a proven contributor to mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse and other serious conditions.

Roughly 20 percent of the U.S. adult population suffers from a mental health condition, so this is not an issue limited to the communications industry. It is, however, particularly relevant for PR leaders to confront endemic risks.

We all know PR is a hard job. But we shouldn’t accept that people must suffer (often in silence) to work in the field. Below are steps PR leaders can take to create a work environment that not only assists those who are suffering, but seeks to build positive mental health.

A Supportive Environment

Isabel Podda COO,
Infinite Global

Communications leaders must work to destigmatize mental health. While entertainers and athletes have gone public with their mental health struggles, it’s hard for an employee to step forward and admit to having problems.

Employees should know whom they could talk to when experiencing symptoms. A collegial, understanding work culture is step one. Yet it’s also imperative to have people available who are trained in mental health. Their role is twofold: Identify people who may be suffering silently, open communication channels and help employees find the right professional support, but also play an integral role in enabling the agency to promote positive mental health.

Since poor mental health can touch anyone at any stage in their life or career, it is key that these first aiders are able to operate at all levels of the business.

Benefits and Training

Sophie Cikovsky Assoc VP,
Infinte Global

Policies and programs that offer resources to staffers to deal with mental health issues, such as an employee assistance program, a comprehensive health plan with low deductible options, and incentives to live a healthy lifestyle are baseline best practices. Such policies and programs allow employees to take care of themselves proactively.

Beyond this, companies should consider offering perks and benefits that not only support positive mental health but provide resources to engage in activities that prevent mental health decline.

For example, a plan that allows employees to build programs that fit their needs, and includes benefits such as cultural immersion, gym credits, sports and concert tickets, and museum memberships. By offering programs like this, communications leaders can reemphasize their commitment to promoting positive life balance.

One Path Does Not Fit All

We all have that team member: the media guru who can get any journalist on the phone instantly. You’re probably not inclined to encourage her to pursue other areas of interest, are you? You should.

Being pigeonholed—even in a role someone initially liked and excels at—can become stifling and, more often than not, leads to burnout. It is crucial for managers to regularly engage with all team members in formal and informal settings. More important, listen intently to what employees are saying to preempt burnout and its impact on mental health.

Professional fulfillment can come in many shapes and sizes, and it’s important to provide employees with opportunities to bring out their best. Plus, as reported in Harvard Business Review, studies show that learning new things “helps connect us to an underlying purpose of growth and development. This way, we can see ourselves as constantly improving and developing, rather than being stuck with fixed capabilities.”

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