Today, mental health awareness is at an all-time high worldwide. Even before the pandemic, there seemed to be an increasing number of people who were more open to address and start conversations on mental health issues. One of the most frequently talked-about mental health topic is mental well-being in workplaces. Work is an integral part of adult life, but also a common source of stress for many of us. In order to gain a further, more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between work (in particular, PR work) and our mental health, PRCA APAC had recently published the very first report on mental health.

Between 21 July and 16 August, PRCA Asia Pacific worked with YouGov to survey PR and communications professionals across the Asia Pacific region. A total of 1,187 responses were received from practitioners in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Below are some of the more important findings we’ve gathered from the report.

Our workplace has a significant influence on our mental health

When asked how much influence the respondents think their workplaces have on their overall mental health, 46% indicated ‘Moderate influence’ whereas 34% indicated ‘Strong influence’. High workload and long hours were the top 2 factors identified as potential triggers of poor mental well-being at work. Practitioners who work extra hours experience a knock-on effect and as a result, they struggle to do things that can be conducive to positive physical and mental health.

Damaging effects of overworking in pandemic times

Overworking, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, prove to be damaging to the respondents’ mental health. Nearly half (48%) of survey respondents report that they are going through a particularly stressful period in their life, with 45% disagreeing, and 7% choosing not to answer that question. It is also worrying to see that in the last 12 months, many of the region’s PR professionals have experienced trouble with sleep, anxiety, feelings of social disconnection or similar.

Identifying mental health issues

On a more reassuring note, the report shows that majority of the region’s PR professionals are confident in being able to identify mental health issues, and are comfortable talking to colleagues about such problems. Overall, 62% agree that they are ‘very well-informed and educated about mental health’ – another 10% disagree, and the remainder are unsure.

Confiding in our colleagues about our mental health state

Out of the 71% of people who had discussed their mental health with one or more colleague in the past year, younger age groups were found to be more likely to have spoken about their mental state to someone at work. Majority of respondents (64%) indicated that it would be likely for them to talk to a colleague if they were faced with a mental health issue in the future. For those who are unwilling to do so, their main concerns were that it would be inappropriate to do so or it would bring negative impacts on their career.

Less optimistic reality with regards to seeking help

Despite a large portion of respondents indicating that they know what they ‘should’ do if experiencing mental health issues, not many actually practice it – 48% suggested seeing a mental health practitioner if they experience feelings of extreme highs and lows, but in reality, only 24% of people who had experienced that in the last 12 months sought a practitioner.

Employees’ performance in addressing mental health at workplaces

Thankfully, 68% of the respondents said that their employees have communicated with staff about mental health during the past year, although a small group have yet to do so. A narrow majority (52%) of respondents overall rated their employer as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ at providing mental health resources, but this figure varies in different markets.

Overall, the region’s PR and communications professionals are positive about their employers’ work both on general company culture, and specific mental health-related measures. The majority (83%) of companies offer at least one type of support – a number rising to 96% in Vietnam but dropping to 75% in Malaysia and Singapore, and larger companies are slightly more likely to provide mental health benefits to staff than smaller firms.

No room for complacency

Overall, respondents also agree that their organisations have been supportive during the pandemic. But a sizable number (40%) say they are not doing enough overall to support mental health – so there is no room for complacency.

Concluding statement

“Now more than ever, mental health has to be taken seriously both at home and at work. Awareness is key and communicating ways to approach mental health can be done so in a variety of ways. This can range from weekly team meetings, staff intranets, one-on-ones, monthly wellness workshops and or just basic communication that there is an open door policy between employees and employers that it’s okay to speak up if you are suffering. Participating in or encouraging activities that support mental health within the workplace are important, especially when we are in and out of work-from-home, not taking holidays as there’s nowhere to go and suffering from mental fatigue. This can be anything from getting out of the house for a walk in nature, online team activities to connect, having mental health experts available to speak to, right down to basic things such as understanding each individual’s unique situation and just asking how they are – one size does not fit all. From working mums who simultaneously have to homeschool and work, graduates whose first job out of college starts working from a packed household, to business executives who have pressure to bring in revenue in an unpredictable market – every person’s situation is different and needs a bespoke approach. Business owners and managers also need some form of training or awareness in terms of how to manage situations when staff have mental health problems and steps to take to allow employees to a) feel comfortable speaking up and b) how to best manage their needs. Singapore still has a long way to go compared to the West when it comes to normalising talking about mental health. This in itself needs to be talked about and made the norm, that essentially it’s okay, if you aren’t feeling okay – we are only human.”

Lynda Williams, Co-Founder of The Soothe

For more information on the PRCA APAC Mental Health Report 2021, click here.