Mental health in recent years has become less and less stigmatised, and people feel less judged when they talk about it. Whilst this is obviously a good thing, is it enough? When it comes to mental health, the negative side of social media has a lot to answer for, but at the same time, it’s given people a platform to say that they’re not ok. We can reach out to friends and family with the click of a button and find ‘professional help’ using two thumbs and a search bar, but this can often lead to negativity.
I have struggled with mental health for my entire life. As a naturally anxious person with depressive tendencies, I also suffered bullying, verbal abuse, and being dyspraxic, my academic ability worked differently from ‘the norm’ – creating the most stressful educational environment that I had to deal with for close to 20 years of my life. It seemed to me that we’re expected to turn 18, immediately be an adult and know what we want to do in life. This year, I came further than I ever could have imagined. At 20 years old I went to university, realised it was the wrong choice, and dropped out four months later. I was living with my mum 30% of the time and 70% of the time I was living on my friend’s sofa, depressed, aimless and with a beard so awful you’ll question why I’m doing Movember at all.
But now, four years later, I’m a graduate. I found a different uni that suited me better, was delighted to graduate with a 2-1 and I felt optimistic. I got a job almost immediately at a very high pressure PR firm in London. It was too much. I couldn’t cope. Every day I woke up and every day I felt sick, I felt like an imposter and mostly I felt helpless. The firm had no real support network, despite assuring me at the interview that they did. I was hired in a position above what I applied for and didn’t want to say anything for fear of losing my job. My mental health deteriorated to a point that hadn’t been so low since four years prior. Finally, I had enough, I left, and I thought that was that for me.
The thing about working within Public Relations (PR) is it’s known for being extremely fast paced, leading to an intense workload. It’s not a job for the faint hearted. Last year’s Workplace Wellbeing Report by Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), Charted Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), and Opinium found that 90% of those in PR have experienced mental health issues to some extent in that year, with 67% an overwhelming workload was a key source of stress. But PR is also a job that can come with great rewards and I believe support makes all the difference, both support within your colleagues and company and support mentally.
But I had support, my friends, my family, and shout out to my mum for helping me every step of the way. She put a post on LinkedIn, talking about how agencies need to take better care of their staff and, luckily, one of the people reading that post was my current boss, who couldn’t be more different in his approach to staff welfare, and said he was recruiting. I got in touch, and I am so glad I did. So, therefore I decided to do Movember.
On Tuesday November 1st I shaved off my beard to grow the worst moustache you’ve ever seen (even worse than my Dad’s 80s special, and believe me that takes some doing!) and I’m going to be raising money for men’s mental health and suicide awareness. Please, if you have any money to spare, donate to my Movember page so I can reach my goal of £250. If I make that, I will then up the goal in the hope I can raise as much money as possible.
In the incessantly busy and stressful lives we all seem to lead, please remember to check on your friends, your colleagues, your family and keep an eye on yourself too. Public Relations is a tough nut to crack, but if you’re lucky like me you’ll have found solace in a job that supports you. I found this with Spa Communications, where I feel valued and part of a great team. If you are struggling, don’t give up. I felt hopeless at times, but I realised that you need to ask for help and not be afraid to do that.
I hope you find what you need, and if you could do with a chat, then my inbox is always open.
Support my Movember here:
By Ollie Sharp, Account Executive