Mental Health : Being Prepared To Act

The awful events of the Germanwings plane crash last month in the French Alps brought to the fore an issue we don’t like to discuss too often : mental health.

After the initial shock of a pilot who had intentionally downed a plane, taking 149 others with him, the media began to raise poor mental health management as a culprit.

In Communications, as the pressure to deliver faster with less across a wider range of channels -often interactively – increases, mental health is a growing issue.  And while I say this as someone running  (therefore responsible for the welfare and wellness of) a large (100+) team, the pressures on those acting as independent consultants are equally as great at times.

Increasingly, we need to recognise the signs in our teams (and sometimes in ourselves!) and act to provide support (or sometimes not be afraid to seek it).

This is not an area IABC has yet ventured to campaign on, but it is one we might; as we increasingly raise our sights, and aim to attend to the wider issues facing the profession.

It is, reasonably, at least as important as for example sustainability or ethics : arguably, it is linked to both.

In extremis, but sadly not infrequently, substance abuse, adultery and health problems are the common results of an industry pushing too hard.

Incidents like the Germanwings crash don’t help; on the contrary, they can demonise the issue of mental health.  Yet on average 1 in 4 people will experience some mental health issue at some stage in their career.

Groups including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America (MHA) are trying to reframe the conversation to focus on the reality that most people with depression or other psychiatric diagnoses are almost never violent but that, instead, it is a silent denuder : of people and of course of productivity.

It has been reported (in PRWeek and other places) that Andreas Lubitz may have been afraid to tell his employer about what he was dealing with.

In an at-times intense profession like Communications, we should never let this be the case, and as managers – as well as an organisation representing  the profession globally – be prepared to act.

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