Last year, I began to understand the depths of mental illness. I traveled back to the UK to look after my mum, who’d experienced a severe mental breakdown. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to truly put into words what it was like looking after her. The woman who had been my rock for my whole life was unable to shower herself, eat, or come up for air to stop screaming. I had this overwhelming feeling of helplessness the entire time, despite calling every helpline and reading every article I could find.
I returned to Australia and re-entered the media bubble, where mental health, at that point in time, wasn’t a hot topic of conversation and was still stigmatised. Despite this, or perhaps consequently, I decided to write an ‘open letter to management’ about the impact company culture can have on mental health.
I was completely overwhelmed by the response it received.
But what I found most disturbing was the number of people who reached out to me who were suffering (in silence) with their own mental health battles. More needed to be done.
The Mentally Healthy survey carried out by UnLtd and Never Not Creative showed the average number of people suffering from mild to severe depression in the marketing, media and creative industry was 56% (the national average is 36%). It also showed that only a third of companies in the industry currently offer mental health support.
My employer, PHD, is a huge advocate of providing a mentally healthy workspace and quickly dedicated itself to creating a movement towards removing the stigma of mental health. We decided to share our personal stories with the industry by ‘wearing our heart on our sleeve’.
The magnitude of the problem became even clearer at this point. We realised how ill-equipped we are as an industry to identify mental health issues. So what if we could up-skill ourselves? This led us to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), which teaches people the skills to help someone who they’re concerned about, in the same way physical first aid does.
PHD enrolled me in the instructor’s course, and I am now a qualified mental health first aid instructor, which means I can educate and qualify people to become mental health first aiders.
On my first day, we went around the room and explained where we worked – the majority of the group were psychologists, psychiatrists, and one woman was an ex-nurse who had set up a rehabilitation centre for returning, suffering military veterans.
Safe to say, I was feeling quite inadequate with my job title, but I realised it was actually extra important that I was there, that the media industry was there, learning.
The course doesn’t have all the answers; however, it is the first step in demystifying the topic of mental illness, increasing mental health literacy, and beginning to decrease the stigma.
I appreciate PHD investing in me and mental health like this. I appreciate Mark Coad’s support.
“I’m really proud of Chloe and the steps she has taken in this area, to help progress our agency as well the rest of the industry,” said Coad, CEO, PHD Australia.
“She has done it with a genuine interest in the well-being of our broader industry, so please get behind her and let’s work together on improving the happiness of our people.”
I hope I can use this new skill set to make a change.
So, I want to share my knowledge with you, for free.
PHD will be running a mental health first aid course in Sydney, Australia on 22 and 23 July. It’s a two-day course, and at the end, you will be a qualified mental health first aider.
If you are interested in attending the course, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will reserve a spot for you.
I know two days is a significant investment.
But it’s worth it.
I hope you can make it.