By: Elizabeth Ewell
Mental Health Issues have become one of the leading common deaths in America. Mental health is often a topic that is shunned or embarrassing to discuss. Some take mental health issues as a joke, and some are not afraid to speak out about the issue. Still, there are more who pay no attention to mental health and do not take it as serious as it should be. The respect level for those who are aware that they have a mental health issue is also low.
I myself have struggled with my mental health this semester, which is not something I would have been comfortable sharing a year or so ago. I often overwork myself and am, frankly, hard on myself. I am a go-getter, independent, and a perfectionist. I have worked my way through college all four years, and at one point worked three jobs to sustain and reach goals I had set for myself. I was involved in a lot of activities on campus and often spread myself too thin. I felt as though that if I said no, I was hindering myself or missing out on great opportunities, when the truth was I did more than enough with what I could handle throughout my last four years. I was blessed with opportunities of a lifetime, held high positions in organizations, and made lifetime connections with professionals and peers through the work I did on campus.
However, I spread myself too thin again this semester, and have honestly found myself struggling to keep up with schoolwork and my actual job. Personal issues have also caused tremendous stress on me, and I felt super overwhelmed. I got to a point where I needed a break, or I was going to have a mental breakdown. I had not focused on myself and had not been properly taking care of my mental wellbeing. I was mentally and physically exhausted.
Public Relations was listed as the sixth most stressful career in America according to Career Cast.
In a recent article written by Paul Sutton, Five Solutions to Stress, Anxiety & Depression, in Public Relations 60% of PR professionals say they are ‘stressed’ or ‘very stressed’ at work.
‘Thirty percent (30%) of public relations professionals have also expressed that they are somewhat happy at work or not happy at work.’ (CareerCast)
Why are so many unhappy in public relations?
Glean info details that PR professionals are stressed because of “tight deadlines, unreasonable clients, a constantly changing media landscape, confrontational reporters and a cynical public. The challenge of proving the benefits of PR to clients and corporate managers can also cause anxiety.”
Many also expect public relations to give an exact result, like advertising, which is not the case. The misunderstanding of public relations causes a lot of conflicts which causes stress.
Public relations courses require a lot of critical thinking, focus, time, and research, to plan and execute work, just like a PR professional job. If you do not follow these strategies to meet deadlines, you will not be successful in PR. Due to my mental health suffering, I was not doing any of those things, causing me to fall behind badly on my work. Had I not been honest with my professor, it could have hindered my entire semester.
How can we solve these issues?
What if I had not spoken up? I would have had many missed assignments in the grade book, a failing grade, or worse I would have failed the course which would’ve hindered me from graduating in the fall. The first step is acceptance with ourselves and acknowledge that you may be suffering from some sort of mental issue.
Next, talk to your employer about your health, and be open and honest. Your employer cannot fire you for expressing the stress you may have due to the job, or because you may not be mentally healthy at the moment. You should express concern if you receive judgment on your mental state of mind. Your well-being is not humorous and should be important to your employer. Telling your truth to your employer will help you in the end.
Ask for Help
Seek help from a professional. Sometimes your job might even compensate you for your visit. Professionals could teach you how to cope with working under pressure and minimizing stress for yourself with your job. In the field of public relations, no day is the same and you often are thrown curveballs; knowing how to deal with stress is important to be happy in this career.
Be Honest and Don’t be Afraid to Take Breaks
Again, be honest about your health, speak about your issues and take a break or vacation from work, if in dire need. Taking breaks can bring peace to your life and help you think clearly. Many jobs will allow you to take a temporary leave of absence for a certain period of time. This break can give you the peace of mind you need to get back in action and start “killing it” in your career.
Normalize Mental Health in the Workplace
Employers should make sure mental health is an important topic to discuss openly with their employees.
Today many employers bring in professionals on mental health and host workshops on the issue. Knowing your organization cares about the mental wellbeing of their staff can make it more comfortable for an employee to discuss their health to their employer. If your organization does not openly discuss mental health, maybe suggest some of the ideas above to create awareness of the issue in your workplace.
Be okay with saying no to additional tasks because of stress. If you cannot handle additional work, it’s better to not do the work than to do work wrong or not of good quality. Instead, ask for smaller roles until you feel stable enough to handle your regular full workload.
Public Relations is a demanding, but exhilarating job, so making sure you take care of your mental health is a major priority to be successful in this career. Do not be afraid to use your voice, because your health matters!