PR agency to introduce mental health first aiders in the workplace

Porter Novelli is looking to take a leading role in the fight to improve mental health across the industry.

The team at Porter Novelli with their pledge
The team at Porter Novelli with their pledge

Porter Novelli say they are one of the first PR agencies to sign the Time to Change employer pledge, which is part of a mental health anti-stigma campaign led by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

Research from the Time to Change campaign has revealed that 54 per cent of people say they are impacted most by mental health stigma in their place of work and 95 per cent of employees who have called in sick with stress gave a different reason for their absence.

Research by PRWeek found nearly 60 per cent of PR professionals had suffered or been diagnosed with mental ill health.

Read more: Time for change: Tackling PR's mental health problem

Porter Novelli managing director Nicole Yost said the agency was proud to have recently signed the Time to Change employer pledge. As someone who suffers from anxiety, it was an issue that is close to her heart.

She added: "By introducing an internal mental health barometer, an active Employee Champions group and other individual wellness action plans, we’re demonstrating a commitment to changing the way we all think and act about mental health."

The PRCA launched its own Mental Health Toolkit on World Mental Health Day in 2017 and Matthew Hare-Scott, associate director at Porter Novelli and co-chair of the PRCA health group said that despite this, tangible measures to address longstanding issues – such as tackling the ‘always on’ culture and protecting staff from unrealistic client demands – are still in their infancy.

"In an industry that bases a lot of its value on people and relationships, I think that PR has a responsibility to lead from the front on this issue," he added.

Next month Priyanka Bhatt, senior account director, and senior account manager Anastasia Alden will take part in a mental health training course.

Alden said the course will help them spot signs of mental ill health in the workplace and equip them both with the emotional intelligence to raise the issue with colleagues.

"In my experience lots of people don’t feel comfortable talking to their line manager about their mental health," she added.

Bhatt said she wanted to tackle the stigma and make sure employers are paying the issue more than just lip service.

Andrew Berrie, Time to Change employer programme manager at Mind, said: "We’re certainly seeing more enquiries from PR agencies that are interested in signing our Employer Pledge, but the sector is still underrepresented. We welcome more agencies to join our pledge and make a commitment to staff to create a more open culture when it comes to mental health."

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