As well as being a creative director at Mischief, I am a practicing psychotherapist. I qualified in May 2017 after four years of part-time study and currently spend one day a week volunteering as a counsellor at an addiction charity in South London.
Although my clients present with a wide variety of addiction-related issues, the underlying causes of distress remain fairly consistent: low self-esteem, struggles to maintain healthy relationships and poor self- image. I also see how this distress can afflict anyone, regardless of age, income, status or ethnicity; and certainly regardless of working in an industry (generally) considered as exciting, interesting and attractive as PR. Indeed, in certain conditions working in PR can actually cause mental-health issues, rather than prevent them.
Now I don’t want to demonise the PR industry, nor create the impression that this is the only one that can exacerbate mental-health issues (it certainly isn’t). But in my dual role as CD and counsellor I can see at first-hand some of the issues that do exist in this industry.
Whose self-esteem hasn’t been knocked when they’ve had their story rejected by an abrupt journalist? Whose relationships haven’t suffered due to too many late nights working on endless presentations?
Whose self-image hasn’t taken a bit of a nosedive if they’ve lost a pitch or two in quick succession?
And which of us hasn’t occasionally (or more than occasionally) taken refuge in booze (or more) to help ‘deal’ with the stress that this job sometimes places on all of us? It’s not hard to see how those of us who struggle with mental health (myself included) might have those struggles exacerbated by the challenging conditions in which we sometimes work.
So what can be done to support those who are struggling? My counselling model extols (among other things) the power of empathy, and I believe this is as relevant in a PR office as in a counselling room.
Sometimes all it takes is for a colleague or a line manager to take the time to show that they under- stand (or are at least attempting to) what someone else is going through. To remind the person who is struggling that they are not alone, aren’t the only one feeling how they’re feeling, and are not ‘mad’ for feeling the way they do. To bring that person out of a sense of isolation and back among people who care about them – not just professionally, but also personally.
It’s not, of course, the complete or only solution to the mental-health issues that exist in this industry, but it’s a good place to start – and we do need to start somewhere.
Greg Jones is creative director, Mischief, and practising psychotherapist