This Wednesday – 10 October – is World Mental Health Day. Chances are you’ve probably got some content planned for whatever channels you manage and that your audiences will value it – after all, mental health is a big topic for young people and is far less taboo than it has ever been.
But, is that quite the case for social media and communications professionals? In an always-on job, where we’re often to required to check emails and feeds outside of normal work hours, reply to things quickly and regularly deal with negative comments, our jobs have the potential to be detrimental to our mental health and wellbeing – regardless of much we like our work.
To mark World Mental Day, this is a special episode of The Native Podcast – with it focus being mental health for social media managers and communications professionals.
My guest is Alistair Beech, who is senior social media co-ordinator at the University of Manchester and an articulate and much-admired advocate of talking about and looking after your mental health. Alistair has been open about his own mental health journey and written on the subject for CASE, as well as running marathons to raise money for the mental health charity Mind.
In this episode we quite simply talk about mental health. We cover things like presenteeism, getting active and some of the specific things about working in communications that could have an effect on our wellbeing. We also discuss some places where you can go if you are struggling or if you do want some help.
But, most of all, we just talk – because that’s actually one of the best things you do. Take care of yourself this World Mental Health Day – and every other day too – and get ready for a really great conversation.
In the past, Alistair has suffered from depression – but, thankfully, has overcome that period of his life, even though it doesn’t necessarily go away totally. He’s been a strong advocate of talking about and thinking about your mental health and wellbeing – particularly for social media managers.
Alistair thinks his initial depression was brought on by stress and lifestyle, so he started to put an emphasis on himself, both at work and his personal life.
I’ve been open about my mental health with family friends for a couple of years now – and that was really difficult to come out and talk about it.
Talking about mental health really helps Alistair – it helps him now and it’s helped him in the past too.
While mental health has become less taboo among young people – it’s much more accepted socially – social media managers and communications professionals seem less able to open up about it. Communications has an element of the 24/7 about it these days, which can bring with it stress and affect people who work in the field.
There was a study in 2017 called FutureProof – backed by CIPR – that said 56% of PR professionals are uncomfortable or very uncomfortable talking with colleagues about their mental health.
As I learned more about myself I’ve certainly tailored how I use social media personally.
Alistair hosted a round table about mental health at the 2017 CASE Europe Annual Conference with around 15 attendees from within the HE sector, mostly in comms. They shared experiences around looking after your mental health and how to help your colleagues.
As a follow up, Alistair wrote an excellent article for CASE, which you should definitely check out.
In that article, Alistair talked about presenteeism and the damaging effect that can have your mental health – your physical health too!
It’s hard to challenge people about it – they might just turn around and say they have too much work to do.
Alistair also highlighted the importance of simply being organised and how that can help with your wellbeing.
An overflowing inbox or a too full to-do list can really add to people’s anxiety levels.
He also raised the idea of simply getting away from the work bubble every day – to clear your head and to go and find great content too.
The links between exercise and good mental health are also well-reported, and it’s certainly something Alistair subscribes to. He’s ran marathons and half-marathons for charity and found exercise to be a big part in his recovery.
Admitting that you have a problem is probably one of the hardest things.
Talking is a great to start dealing with any problems and there are plenty of resources to help online. Alistair recommends CALM’s live, anonymous web chat between 5pm and midnight on any day of the year, as well as Mind and Time to Talk.
Sometimes Twitter can be quite an inspirational place too.
Alistair’s top three tips for looking after your mental health
Accept yourself and who you are as much as you can.
If you are going through a rough period, try and understand why that might be – it could really help you, and others, in the future.
5 apps on your phone you use the most
Strava, Messenger, YouTube, WhatsApp and Podcasts
4 people you’d like to invite round for dinner
Matt Haig, Ruby Wax, Alistair Campbell and Mo Farah
3 words to describe what it’s like working for the University of Manchester
Exciting, diverse and cultural
2 places/events in the world you’d really love to visit but haven’t been able to yet
New Zealand and Japan
1 social media platform you love more than any of the others