PR professional and mental health advocate Leanne Ehren led an inspiring and informative discussion on wellbeing in the workplace at our last branch event.
Recalling her own experiences of PTSD following trauma sustained in the course of her PR job during the Manchester terror attacks, Leanne admitted it had been difficult to adjust but emphasised there were coping strategies available to people.
She said: “I always thought I was strong minded, and when my team and I were dealing with the full on workload facing us after the attack, I just worked my way though it. It’s the kind of thing many of us in PR do, where we thrive, dealing with fast-moving events. But six weeks after the Manchester terror attacks, I moved on to a role at the East Midlands Ambulance service. And one day in the shower, I just froze, I cried, I couldn’t breathe and I could not understand what was happening to me.
“All I could see was the faces of my team when I worked in Manchester. Brain fog set in.”
Leanne went on to talk about the support she was able to access through a firefighters charity. Her experience highlighted some of the pressures that can face PR and comms workers which are also covered in her talk videoed at the Granicus 2018 conference.
She now works for a water company in a stakeholder comms role and encouraged NUJ members to never keep silent about their mental health struggles and engage with employers on best practice around the issue.
Leanne used the evidence from PRCA and CIPR highlighting how workers in our profession are much more likely to risk stress, depression and anxiety – as many as 89% of us suffering poor mental health.
Leanne highlighted ways that could help, including lunchtime walks, guaranteed time away from the desk, supported by managers who actively pursue their staff’s wellbeing, banning lunchtime meetings and having a ban on non-critical out of hours emails.
Chair of the PRCC Phil Morcom who has written about mental health in PR thanked Leanne, adding thoughts from his own experiences.
He highlighted that mental health related to the workplace is as much a health and safety issue as physical health – being asked to use with dangerous machinery without safety guards or having to lift overly heavy objects.
He highlighted the advice available online from the TUC, ACAS and HSE, which can help union members and their representatives work out how best to ensure employers take the issue seriously.
Attendees at the event shared their own ideas about the pressures behind poor mental health, with it quickly becoming clear everyone had some experiences and knowledge either personally or from colleagues and friends.
As Branch Chair John Millington pointed out, this was an issue it was vital for our union to take seriously and the upcoming delegate meeting offers a great platform to share the knowledge, insight and advice.