The stigmatisation of those suffering with mental ill health has to stop. That’s all this post has to say, really. Enough is enough.
Organised by MIND and Rethink Mental Illness, yesterday was #timetotalk day in the UK. It was a day when we were encouraged to “get the nation talking about mental health and keep the conversation going round the clock”.
I applaud initiatives like this. And top of the daily Nuzzel newsletter that landed in my inbox this morning, curated from articles my Twitter network was sharing, was information about #timetotalk. It’s proof that the public relations and communications industry really is starting to wake up to the fact that we have a big issue to deal with.
For anyone who’s not read my blog before, I’m very open about the fact that I’ve suffered from depression for 12 years diagnosed and, realistically, a lot longer than that. I’ve written about it several times since ‘coming out’ two and a half years ago. And over the last year or so I’ve started to become very vocal and active in trying to address what’s happening in PR.
Did you know that more than a third of PR professionals have been diagnosed with or experienced some form of mental ill health (source: PRCA)? Or that 60% report that they are ‘stressed’ or ‘very stressed’ at work (source: Comms2Point0)?
The thing is, we’re all a bit nuts.
The old adage that ‘you don’t have to be mad to work here…but it helps!’ certainly applies to the communications industry.
There are numerous reasons why that’s true and why PR is such a stressful industry to work in that I’m not going to cover here (but look out for something new coming in the next couple of weeks!). And yet, generally speaking, we still feel the need to lock our anxieties, our stresses and our ‘craziness’ away. It’s bullshit.
Listen, the term ‘mental’ is, perhaps understandably, seen as derogatory in our very sanitised and politically correct modern world. The title I’ve used for this post will probably upset a few people, or at least make them feel uncomfortable. If that’s you, I’m sorry.
But I’d like us to take back that term. Because I believe that we are, all of us, mental to one degree or another. The Mental Health Foundation reported in 2014 that one in six adults had a common mental health problem in the past week. In the last seven days! Hand up if that’s you…
Mental Illness Does Not Make You Worthless
I freely admit that I’m mental. I suffer from depression. How much I’m mental just depends on the time of year! 😉
But you know what? It has not stopped me being successful nor does it hinder my career or what I can offer my clients in any way whatsoever. In the last 12 years since I was diagnosed I’ve run two businesses. I was Head of Digital Communications for a fast-growing PR agency for five years.
I’ve won 17 social media awards. I’ve been interviewed for blogs and websites, and I’ve contributed to books. I’ve been invited to speak at numerous industry events. And in the last two years since I ‘came out’ as mental I’ve earned more than I have in my entire career.
So if you want to stigmatise me or anyone else for that matter for admitting to suffering from depression or anxiety or stress at times, then so be it. That’s your choice. But I for one will not back down on this and I hope you’ll join me in talking openly about your mental health with a view to banishing the stigma once and for all. And if your place of employment doesn’t like that, then maybe should find somewhere that’s more accepting of people for who they are.
On 16th June I’m speaking at #PRFest in Edinburgh about the business case for tackling mental well-being and about how to do that. Maybe I’ll see you there?
Oh, and on a side note I tried to write something last week about mental well-being to be posted in time for #timetotalk day. But I found myself (unusually) with a lack of anything to say on the matter because, you know, I’m mental and all that 🙂
So although I’m a bit late to the party with this post, at least I came to the party. And as anyone with depression or anxiety will tell you, leaving the house is the hardest thing you can do…