Mental health or dream job?
By Anais Piton on May 05, 2021
In the UK, it is estimated that at least one in four people suffer from mental health issues yearly. As of today, that represents about seventeen million people. I don’t ever want to be just another statistic, but I am one of those seventeen million people. I have battled through anxiety and depression since my final year of university. This is something that has had a significant impact on my life for the past six years. Making me feel scared, ashamed, and insecure.
When the opportunity of working at IMA came along, I had just left a job at a design studio where life-work balance did not exist, and you had to ask permission to get a drink of water (true story!). I must admit it gave me mixed feelings about working in a creative environment. My first agency experience was at Young&Rubicam, and I instantly fell in love with agency life. The fast-paced environment, diversity of projects, wide roster of clients, and never-ending creativity and passion put into projects… I loved it all. But agency lifestyle can also be a trigger for several mental health issues.
When you say you work in advertising, people tend to see the glamour of it. It sounds awesome, and let’s be honest, it usually is pretty cool. But it doesn’t come without its challenges. Lack of consistent structures, short deadlines, constant multitasking, overtime, last-minute jobs, client pressure. That made me question my abilities – would my mental health battles cause my performance to suffer?
In the UK, one in six people in advertising have mental health issues in the workplace. Would I have to choose between my mental health and dream job. That did not sit right with me.
We are lucky enough to exist in a world that is constantly evolving, and so is our industry. Within recent years, the discussion around mental health has become louder as people try to break down the barriers and stigma it is often associated with. It has urged the ad industry to take a hard long look in the mirror.
NABS, for example, focuses on improving the wellbeing of everyone in the advertising and media industry through talks, career guidance, help line or masterclasses.
In 2018, Bauer Media teamed up with mental health campaigner Natasha Devon and Mental Health First Aid England to launch their Where’s Your Head At? campaign. Launched to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, the campaign encouraged people to sign a petition to make mental health first aid a legal requirement within the workplace. As the Coronavirus pandemic hit, they created an interactive map allowing people who are struggling to find the most relevant and readily available support near them.
These initiatives are a brilliant start and we need to continue and get more industry leaders, and agencies, to address the elephant in the room. This has been echoed by many, including the Duke of Cambridge, who believes this much needed change in culture should come from the top, with leaders setting the example. In 2016, he founded Heads Together, a mental health initiative to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health.
In the end, I decided that you shouldn’t have to choose between your dream job and your mental health, so I took a leap of faith and joined IMA. And I have found that you can find balance and flexibility, and there are people and places out there who do care. In fact, and as cliché as this might sound, it was through IMA that I discovered a real escapism to my mental battles: practising yoga. And I have learned that battling through my emotions also makes me proud, brave, and powerful.
We’re finally coming out of our third lockdown, and for all the terrible things COVID-19 has brought upon us, one positive can be drawn. Now more than ever, companies seem to be determined to focus on improving mental health in the workplace.
As we are helping our clients communicate how they tackle mental health issues, we are also embarking on our own journey. And at IMA, we’ve already started the revolution, creating a health and well-being team who are there to support us. From promoting physical and mental health activities, organising team and agency wide socials, salary bench-marking, to offering training or encouraging time shift for a better life/work balance; we are committed to making IMA a supportive environment.
I, for one, am hopeful that our brilliant industry, and our agency, will step up and be a true leader of change.
If you are ever feeling it is all becoming too much, please seek out help in family, a friend, a colleague, a manager – trust me, you are not alone. And it is okay not to be okay.