1. It’s time to put mental health front and centre 

    • By Kirsty Marrins @LondonKirsty

    As charity professionals, we’re privileged to work in a sector with humans at its heart. We’re not motivated by money, but rather by changing the world – or at least, making it a better place. It’s our job, as communication professionals, to make others care about our cause and that means telling the stories of those we serve. Often those stories are hard to tell. 

    In order to tell these stories or share them, we need to hear them. And that can take its toll. When you’re dealing with hard hitting, emotionally charged stories, and you don’t have an appropriate outlet for your own emotions, over time this will impact your mental health and wellbeing. That’s why, together with CharityComms and supported by Lightful, I recently launched a Guide to Wellbeing for Comms Professionals

    Traits that make us so good at our jobs – empathy, for example – are the very same traits that make us more susceptible to being affected by emotional content. And it’s not just dealing with the stories of those we serve that can affect our mental health, it’s also being subject to messages directed at us by people who don’t support our work or our decisions. 

    A very recent example was the backlash the RNLI faced after the Daily Mail ran a story about how they spent around 2% of their income on saving lives at sea in other countries, through programmes such as teaching children to swim. The charity was soon inundated with angry tweets from supposed supporters threatening to withdraw their donations because (in their opinion), as a UK charity they should only be spending their money on doing good work in the UK. 

    Imagine being the person having to see angry – and many were vile – tweets coming in at a rapid pace and having to deal with them? This took place on a Saturday too, meaning that the comms team (and others) would have had to go into comms crisis mode. Suddenly the weekend, which is your time to recharge and relax, is taken up by work – and not the fun, feel-good kind like the London Marathon brings, for example. 

    Social media is an amazing tool that enables us to be closer to our supporters but it also allows keyboard warriors to hide behind their relative anonymity and say hurtful and hateful things. And we’re not just talking about a handful of angry messages, we’re talking about hundreds. Whilst it’s important to remember that the messages are not directed personally to us, the sentiment of them can still be internalised. The relentlessness of this kind of crisis can have an impact on staff if there aren’t processes in place to help them. 

    In A Guide to Wellbeing for Comms Professionals, we address the need for communications professionals – in various disciplines, working at charities to look after their own mental health and wellbeing as well as to look out for their colleagues. But it’s not just up to them. Charities themselves need to do more to look after their staff. Leaders, such as CEOs and trustees, need to ensure that they are setting the right culture within their organisation that says it’s ok to talk about mental health and that you’ll be supported if you do. There’s an inspiring example from Sarcoma UK who have done just that by giving all staff monthly access to a psychologist. 

    Also in the guide, GOSH shares their tips on the benefit of team support, Alzheimer’s Society has advice on how to build a framework to address difficult issues and Time to Change shares tips on how to support a colleague. There is also expert advice from Helen Breakwell, a qualified counsellor, on tips to look after your mental health and Hannah Massarella, a certified co-active coach on how to build personal resilience.  

    I hope you find the guide useful. Taking care of our mental health should not be something that falls down the list of priorities. Take the time to read through the guide and to share with others in your organisation. It’s time to normalise conversations around mental health and wellbeing. 

    Our thanks to Copywriter and Communications Consultant Kirsty Marrins for this week’s blog.

    World Mental Health Day. 

    On Thursday 10th October it’s World Mental Health Day; a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. This year’s theme is suicide prevention. Did you know that every 90 minutes, someone in the UK and Ireland takes their own life? (source: Samaritans)

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) are encouraging us all to show we care by taking “40 seconds of action.” They have some great tips on how to do this here. We can all give 40 seconds right? Even if it’s just a tweet, use #40seconds and #WorldMentalHealthDay.

    Time to Change have some great resources on their site including their Champions Storybook where 15 people share their journeys of living with a mental health problem. Powerful reading. You can download the pdf and use it as a tool to start a conversation about mental health.

    The Mental Health Foundation are encouraging us all to hold a Tea & Talk event where we can catch up with our friends, family or colleagues.

    The Samaritans are always on hand for anyone needing to talk. Their freephone number is 116 123 or you can email jo@samaritans.org

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