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2019 PRedictions: The year of mental wellness as a strategic enabler

This blog is part of our PRedictions series, a collection of posts from PR and communications leaders offering insights, advice, and opinions on how our industry can grow in 2019. To view our full list of 2019 PRedictions, click here. Jane Fordham, Consultant, Jane Fordham Consulting, predicts: 

October 24th 2018, Edelman hosted a PRCA panel called ‘The Elephant in the Room; Mental Health’. Edelman’s Michelle Hutton was an excellent chair and my 4 co-panellists were equally impressive, but the standout element of the evening for me was the scale and enthusiasm of the audience.

There’s a societal shift towards greater openness around mental health and it’s brilliant. There have been a number of celebrities and high-profile figureheads such as the young royals chipping away at the stigma and corporate Britain is taking notice (shout out to the brilliant Christmas campaign from The Romans for Virgin Trains). I attended the inaugural Mad World (attention-grabbing name, powerful and action-oriented content) Forum in London on October 10th. Pre-eminent speakers, moving personal stories and reassuringly, many ideas re how to keep people vibrant and healthy at work.

So, much to feel good about. Looking back at my exposure to wellbeing and mental health (good health and bad health) at Golin, and my consulting work this year across all sectors, I think we’re at a tipping point. We’ve certainly broken the seal, we’ve banged the drum and we have the ears of many business and policy leaders. The PRCA and some of the more enlightened employers in our industry are taking a lead and there is real innovation to inspire (like PwC recently inviting staff to design their own working patterns).

However, recent data from the PRCA tells us that stress and mental illness is more prevalent in our sector than amongst the wider economy. In fitting with the theme of World Mental Health Day focussing on young people - one in four teenage girls now self-harms - I am very aware of the scale of the threat to the PR professionals of tomorrow.

My prediction for 2019, (it’s certainly my hope) is that the conversations ignited in 2018, snowball into real and widespread positive change in 2019. Not lip service, but widespread, positive changes in culture, working practices and policies.

To echo Geoff McDonald, pre-eminent mental health campaigner and Mad World host, “Let’s turn mental wellness into a strategic enabler!” Rebecca Hall, Golin’s HR Director asked the October panel, “Who are the role models in our industry we can look to as leading lights in this space?” Nicky Young, Group MD of MullenLowe Salt has been vocal but my parting shot in 2018 is a call to action for others to stand-up and be counted. I’d love to host a 2019 panel with the PRCA sitting alongside industry leaders happy to talk about their experience and best practice. Who’s out there?