CHANGE FOR GOOD – PRCA MENA MindWorks Mental Health Event- 2021
Time and tide wait for no one, and mental health pays no heed to deadlines. During COVID-19, the mental health of individuals suffered. Post-COVID in the corporate sector, importance was given to the mental health of individuals.
The second iteration of the PRCA MENA MindWorks Mental Health Event was held on 13 October 2021. The prevailing theme was clearly ‘Change for Good.’ The webinar built upon the progress of the one held last year while outlining challenges and offering a prognosis of mental health in the MENA region for both the PR field and others.
The panel consisted of Jonty Summers (Managing Director, Hanover Middle East), Lianne Braganza D’Sylva (Chief Marketing Officer, Cigna Healthcare), Dr Saliha Afridi (Managing Director, The Lighthouse Arabia), and Mimi Nicklin (CEO, author, and podcast host), with Scott Armstrong (Editor-in-chief, Arabian Business) being the moderator.
One always aims to have a goal, but sometimes not having a plan is fine, and one should accept that. The panellists spoke about the importance of maintaining a balance between internal pressure, i.e., oneself, and external pressure, i.e., the client. An individual should be willing and able to say no to specific tasks when it becomes an added pressure to perform them. Understanding yourself as a person and the quality of the outcome you can achieve is crucial. Being accepting of change and constantly improving yourself should be the aim of a person hoping to excel.
Prioritise means placing yourself or something you care about ahead of the rest of the concerns affecting you or the work at hand. Mental health is significant; hence, one should prioritise themselves to improve and not endanger their mental health. Always give yourself time and space to figure out the next step forward, and remember, saying no isn’t always so bad.
WHERE ARE WE RIGHT NOW?
The impact of the pandemic was on both ends of the spectrum, contrary to what one would expect. The PRCA MENA Mental Health Report revealed that 28 per cent of respondents felt that the pandemic improved their mental health, while 42 per cent thought that it made it worse. Hayley Clements, General Manager of PRCA MENA, said, “In many ways, the pandemic changed the way we work for the better. More organisations have embraced the remote working model, providing employees greater flexibility. Less commuting in traffic can only be a good thing! Of course, working from home throws up new challenges as well, especially around creating separation between work and personal life.”
51 per cent of the report’s respondents felt that the workplace had a substantial impact on mental health, meaning it is necessary to address it. Jonty Summers said, “It doesn’t surprise me. PR is a service business and there is a lot of pressure. Issues of the MENA region add to the stress. When you’ve got an industry and region which is all about getting stuff done, it will compound. Isolation also doesn’t help.”
Dr. Afridi agreed, adding, “The UAE is a beautiful country which does not know day and night. However, our body does. We are not attending to those biological needs. If we are not spartan-like with discipline, we will burn out.”
PR, while rewarding, can be odiously stressful. Hayley Clements explained, “For too long, we’ve accepted that high stress is just the way it is in our industry. But it doesn’t need to be that way. The cost of poor mental health is too high from a human and business perspective. Organisations need to stop, listen and act on the concerns of their staff. Empathy needs to be at the heart of everything we do.”
The uptick of awareness has necessitated various strategies and resources to assist workers. Some of them include insurance coverage for mental health, programmes and webinars, and even counsellors on-site. Lianne Braganza D’Sylva, CMO of Cigna Healthcare, said, “We have instated Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) in place. These have been used for helping with workers’ children’s stress, anxieties around stress, and work politics. If you got them, use them.” Jonty also chimed in, adding that he granted a day off for World Mental Health Day.
ACHIEVING PURPOSE: EMPLOYEE’S INITIATIVES
It is not solely on organisations to help clients regarding mental health. Workers need to take the initiative and seek out strategies as well. Dr. Afridi opined, “It comes from inside. Organisations need to hire those aligned with purpose. It is also the employee’s job to be inspired. What can you do for your mental health? Are you drinking too much caffeine? How are you regulating? It has to be two people committed- employer and employee. I don’t see that happening.”
She also felt that stress could be good at times. “Small bouts can work. It is a bodily response. But that’s when you shut down. Can you soothe yourself afterward? That’s what most people are not doing. They take substances and don’t relax. That’s when stress prolongs and is chronic,” the clinical psychologist explained.
WE MUST SHARE, WE MUST BE OPEN TO CHANGE:
Leaders play an essential role in advertising mental health and raising issues regarding its betterment. Mimi Nicklin mentioned that millennials are shaking things up as they are inspiring and confident in talking about mental health and raising awareness. Being open about oneself is essential as it helps other individuals learn and adapt to inevitable changes. There is a constant shift in culture and norms all around the world. Talking about mental health, which was formerly taboo among the majority of global communities, is now making its way up the ladder, with more and more leaders around the world doing it.
Many individuals worry about controlling their lives, but they do not understand that there are certain things you cannot control. Hayley Clements mentioned that the mental health report was introduced to PRCA to provide the industry with actionable insights that can be a catalyst for change. The industry has made progress in normalising the mental health conversation since the start of Covid. However, there is still more for the industry to learn in order to ensure a better work-life balance.
“No one should feel guilty about asking for help. We would encourage anyone suffering from poor mental health to speak to someone, whether it’s with a colleague, friend, or healthcare professional”, said Hayley Clements in an interview with us.
Our article focuses on the importance of mental health and breaking the taboo around talking openly about it. The Panelists gave us a great idea on how the PR and other industries have benefitted from focusing on issues related to mental health and its awareness. It is not solely on organizations to help individuals regarding mental health. Workers need to take the initiative and seek out strategies. It is highly beneficial to have ongoing mental health conversations, it should not be a one-time thing. The panellists and Hayley Clements focused on the fact that various industries work best when collaborating with one another. Collaboration is key to ensuring a bright and prosperous future.