PR professionals more likely to have poor mental health than other UK workers

An annual workplace mental health report has revealed that PR professionals are significantly more likely to suffer from poor mental health compared with other workers in the UK.

  Mental health is increasingly recognised in the workplace
Mental health is increasingly recognised in the workplace

The findings, from the PRCA, were unveiled at its third annual World Mental Health day event, which is also supported by the CIPR, Edelman and Opinium. 

The research by the PRCA and CIPR – conducted by Opinium – found 90 per cent of PR professionals have struggled with their mental wellbeing to an extent over the past 12 months, compared with 65 per cent of UK workers overall. 

They are also less likely to take time off from work for mental wellbeing reasons than other UK workers, with one in four PR practitioners taking leave for mental health, compared with one in three UK workers.

Younger professionals aged 25-34 were noticeably more likely to have taken time off due to their mental wellbeing (32 per cent) compared with those aged 35-49 (22 per cent). Workload was cited as the main barrier to taking time off by more than half of the respondents.

On an encouraging note, PR professionals increasingly feel their workplace takes the mental health of their employees seriously, and 60 per cent of those experiencing mental health issues have told someone at work about their struggles.

Key survey findings:

  • 60 per cent of those experiencing mental health issues have told someone at work about it

  • 54 per cent of those who didn’t take time off work for their mental health cited the heavy workload as the top reason for not doing so

  • 61 per cent of those taking time off due to mental health problems have felt guilty for doing so

  • 60 per cent felt considerable improvements in their mental wellbeing after having taken time off

  • 74 per cent of those speaking up at work about their mental health issue found their workplace to be understanding and supportive

  • 67 per cent said an overwhelming workload was a key source of workplace stress

  • 95 per cent of PR professionals believe their workplace has a role to play in looking after the mental wellbeing of employees.

The PRCA and CIPR launched a ‘Heard Mentality’ campaign earlier this year to urge leaders to heed the concerns of colleagues. More than 250 teams across from across the industry took part in a collective Heard Mentality conversation last month.

PRCA director general Francis Ingham said: “This report delivers data on where we are, and recommendations on what we should do. Some of its findings – such as nine out of 10 practitioners have suffered mental ill-health over the past year – are shocking. Others – such as three out of four have found their workplace to be supportive – are very welcome.

“The recommendations are simple, sensible and sound. You shouldn’t feel guilty because you’re feeling unwell. You definitely should talk about the issue. We need to take better care of ourselves, and for many, that’s about workload. And where hybrid working works well, keep on with it.

“Every crisis is a catalyst for change, whether for the better or for the worse. If we embrace the recommendations made here, then that change can definitely be for the better.”

CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra said: "This research does more than shine a light on a well-known problem. It is a call to action; the power to improve the mental health of our employees and colleagues is in our hands and action is expected. If our model of work isn’t working for the majority, how do we fix it? Normalise conversations around mental health. Allow people time off for stress and mental health concerns. And actively manage your team's workload and your stakeholder’s expectations.

“The pressures of working in public relations are very real and it’s right that we should be concerned but we should also be hopeful. There has been a noticeable shift towards more open and supportive cultures, with more than half of those who experienced mental health concerns talking about them to someone else at work. That must continue and the industry must embrace the new world of hybrid working as an opportunity to deliver a better balance between work and life. Another way is not just possible, it’s essential." 

Opinium CEO James Endersby said: “As we reach our third year of conducting our mental health audit among the PR industry, we have started to see organisational change not only within how mental health is communicated and supported throughout the industry, but how mental wellbeing as a whole is approached.

“There was a lot for the industry to learn during the pandemic: how to adapt to a completely upside-down world, remote working, fear and stress at all-time highs. The industry has made great progress since the knock of COVID.”

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