– Emergency stop: A chance to reflect during Mental Health Awareness Week –

We already knew that mental health was an issue in the communications and PR industry before COVID-19. Heaven knows where we’re at with it now. So the opportunity for some time-out to reflect during Mental Health Awareness Week is incredibly timely.

by Darren Caveney

At the end of January this year I attended two-days of mental health first aider training. Wow, it feels like a long time ago.

I paid for the training because I felt like I wanted to be better prepared to support those around me, both professionally and personally, and the course equipped me with some knowledge and confidence to both spot warning signs and support where necessary.

I wrote about the experience here.

My word how we all need those skills and knowledge now as we work our way through the coronavirus crisis and begin to realise more and more, day-by-day, that this is a life-altering event and that we’re all in it for the longer term.

Never busier

I know some in-house comms people who have pretty much worked every day since the crisis really took a hold. 60-70 hour weeks have been commonplace. Most of those I know have never been busier. And whilst none of them complain about this the strain can have a negative impact on any of us over such a sustained period, whether it’s opening a bottle of wine too regularly, losing your temper with the kids, sleeping poorly through worry, or not knowing if you can pay the bills.

These are challenging times for all of us.

The home/work trap

As I discovered when I set up my own consultancy five years ago, working from home is great and I love the flexibility, but it can play havoc with the dividing lines of work and personal time. It’s so easy to flip that laptop back on, to answer that late night email from a  boss, to work out what to say to staff next after the latest government announcements.

Work demands leak in and whilst that is fine for short bursts, when it becomes normal and a definite pattern it’s a time to take notice and act.

Lockdown has intensified this like never before. When have you ever done so much weekend working before? It’s like an out of hours rota on steroids and for whole teams.

So it feels like Mental Health Awareness Week this year is the most important yet for our industry and couldn’t come soon enough.

Time for an emergency stop

Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK runs 18 – 24 May and Comms Unplugged and partners have created a series of hopefully helpful virtual events and resources to mark it.

Comms Unplugged was set up in 2017 with the purpose of helping individuals cope and thrive in an increasingly demanding industry. To create knowledge and resources targeting mental health and wellbeing, and networks and friendships for us all to utilise. It’s grown from an idea we just chatted about to a movement and a set of visions and values that couldn’t feel any more relevant in 2020.

The beauty of Comms Unplugged is that it isn’t just owned and run by the organisers. It is as I say a genuine movement in which anyone can get involved and shape, suggest and lead.  And this ethos has helped to create a series of events accessible to anyone and all for free to tap into during Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW).

The Timetable…

The theme of this week’s MHAW this year is kindness and it’ll be threaded through our efforts for the week. To kick it off, we’re launching the #KindnessCrown

Designed for us by those clever people at Alive with Ideas, our crown aims to recognise and celebrate people who fly the flag for kindness and demonstrate it in what they do.

Sign up to our newsletter and you’ll get a exclusive link to download the #KindnessCrown graphics so you can apply them to the photo of someone you think deserves recognition for their kindness. Let’s flood social media with these wonderful folk! Share it on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag.

Mindful Monday – we’re encouraging you to be mindful and take notice of how you’re feeling. When we recognise our feelings about something we’re better placed to deal with them. It’s about being kind to ourselves – making sure that inner voice is talking to us the way we’d talk to a friend who needs us.

Twitter Tuesday – sees a dedicated Twitter Chat running from 8pm – 9pm on the theme of Kindness. Join in the conversation to flag your experiences of kindness during COVID-19 – the good and the bad – and let’s uncover the secrets to getting through this thing in the healthiest way possible by embracing kindness.

Follow and use the hashtags #MHinComms #MHAW20 and #Kindness

Webinar and Wellbeing Wednesday – We’re so pleased to partner with the CIPR Health Group on this, the first of three monthly webinars, all with a mix of professional learning and wellbeing tips, advice and resources. This webinar will feature fascinating insights from Microsoft UK and NHS Digital on the way we’ve switched up our technology use to facilitate just about everything. And there’ll be great case studies from leading senior comms pros on how to get and keep teams motivated and kind to each other.

There are just a handful of webinar places left so sign up for the Comms Unplugged email to receive an invite HERE.

We’ll also be using this day to think in general about our wellbeing and to share tips and ideas that could help others too.

Thoughtful Thursday – being kind to others has the best ripple effect ever. Not only is it lovely for the recipient – who will often also be inspired to pay it forward – it also improves the wellbeing of the person who does the giving. We want you to share examples of when someone has been kind to you, or you’ve been kind to someone else, and made a real difference, however small.

Friendship Friday – friends are always important but never more so than now. We can’t be with them in person, but kindness between friends is one of the bedrocks of our coping strategy for the current situation. Give a big shout out to your wonderful friends – tag them and show them how much you appreciate them. We’ll also have an exclusive musical video release on this day which is guaranteed to warm the cockles.

Please dip in and share your thoughts and insights, and listen and learn from others too.

I hope you get to have a slightly quieter work week ahead and manage to think about the tweaks and small adjustments you could make to  ensure that you and your loved ones are in the best place possible mentally.

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0, owner of creative communicators ltd and a co-organiser of Comms Unplugged

image via Alive With Ideas