Mental health in PR

by Darcey Myers

As seen on PR Week recently, there has been many articles discussing the alarming rate of mental health issues, of public relations professionals. Per the #FuturePRoof report for the PRCA, mental illness in public relations and communications is not treated in the correct way and is labelled as a performance issue.

The Facts.



In the 2016 CIPR State of the Profession Survey 56.7% said they would be uncomfortable or very uncomfortable talking to a manger about their mental health.  A third of people in PR have experienced a mental health issue while working in this sector.


How to spot the signs

How to spot the signs someone may be suffering with a mental health issue?

  1. They are unusually irritability with others
  2. They have become more controlling of others and events around them.
  3. An unusual or notable deterioration in relationships with colleagues, friends or family and being unduly prickly
  4. They have become withdrawn over a period and they are reluctant to engage in discussion on work tasks, or in social life.
  5. They have a notably different way of approaching problems – maybe becoming over-driven.
  6. They have become preoccupied with failure.

Employers need to be able to recognise signs and offer help where possible, however working in the PR industry with a mental health issue is very different than working in another industry. This is because of the work load and pressure to work at 110%, therefore it is important to spot the signs early and offer help and time off to recover.

Real Life Cases

Paul Sutton has described his case of how mental health impacted his work in communications and how his work effected his mental health for the worst.

Here is a small quote from Paul Sutton’s personal experience; “I didn’t disclose the diagnosis to my employer, though they did know all about my personal circumstances. In common with many suffering from depression, my performance suffered over the next few months; my motivation and productivity were both down. And then, just before the end of my first year with the company, I was asked to leave without so much as a warning.”

He should have felt comfortable enough to speak to his employer, or his employer should have discussed his performance issues. Instead of asking him to leave abruptly.”


What Can Be Done

In an interview Stephen Waddington a partner at Ketchum has said “removing the stigma around the issue of mental health in the workplace will have the single biggest impact on positive outcomes”.

There should be more knowledge and awareness of mental illness in the PR and communications workplace. PR agencies can offer free therapy, counselling through the organisation, to show they support their employees. Managers can also be taught more about mental illness in the workplace, so it is not treated as sign someone cannot handle their workload.

This is just as beneficial for the agency, as this means less turnover of staff and an increase in employee’s satisfaction (which always bodes well).

Depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia are 21st century illnesses, some people are still unsure of how to understand and help people suffering with them in the PR and communications world. Increasing awareness is just the first step in reducing stigma and finding a solution.

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