Former advertising executive Yvette Mayer has penned this opinion piece partly based on her experience in the advertising industry to coincide with today’s World Mental Health Day, writing that the industry desperately needs to take action…
As a senior exec, you would have to be living under a rock, not to be thinking about mental health. The instance of burnout is climbing. This year, the World Health Organisation deemed it an occupational phenomenon. I’m someone who has experienced both sides. I’ve been operational as a senior exec with large teams for over 15 years. And I’ve suffered with mental health challenges, including burnout.
Today, I openly admit, I’ve been on anti-anxiety medication for 20+ years. It took me leaving my corporate ad agency career, to say this publicly. It’s a great shame I didn’t do it sooner. That said, there’s still time for me to use my experience for good. Here’s what I know to be true. Saying you want to offer support and providing it are different matters. This isn’t an area you get to delegate. You can’t push it off by checking boxes. You can’t be too busy. Your empathy, honesty, voice and action are what’s needed most.
Earlier this year, I listened to a Triple J segment on mental health. The biggest challenge young people cite (at work) is a lack of senior management education. Their perspective was that stigma is very real, but it isn’t universal. It’s skewed with the older demographic. In the 2018 Advertising Industry study, the perceived stigma grew with ‘maturity’ too. Of those aged 17-24, 26 per cent felt an individual with mental health issues would be poorly treated (at work). That number rose to a staggering 48 per cent for those aged 45-54.
Seems not only are we less comfortable with others mental health. We’re less comfortable with our own. Which is why I’m talking to you. You, the 40+ executive, that grew up in an environment (as I did), where mental health wasn’t a topic for the office. 20 years ago when I tried the honest approach, support was non–existent. But that was a long time ago, and things have changed. So we need to change too. The fact of the matter is, if you want to show your support, YOU actually have to show your support.
Here’s what that may mean:
- Being honest about your own experiences with mental health
- Working with HR to deliver and importantly attend training tailored to senior executives
- Cascade training, ensuring middle management are equally as informed and empowered
- Share your participation with the entire business along with subsequent actions, such as…
– Develop and publish a company policy that outlines procedures
– If you’re in the ad industry, adopt (and sign) the minimum standards
– Practice what you preach
Every year one in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness. Not in their lifetime. Every year. The top three illnesses are depression, anxiety and addiction.
Over the course of our lives, personal impact is a given. We’re all different and all the same. Humans with human problems. So, look after the humans, including yourself. And be that human that leads the way in your workplace.