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Are creative minds mentally healthy?

3 July 2019, at Redweb

On July 4th 2019, we hosted an event with our charity of the year Dorset Mind, alongside BIMA, to discuss mental health in the Digital and Creative sector.

The event was based around a panel discussion, hosted in front of an audience of creatives and marketers with an interest in mental health, exploring things we can do to address the challenges in Bournemouth and beyond.

The panel consisted of:

  • Stevie Spring - Chair of Mind and the British Council, former Chair of Children in Need
  • Holly Hall - Managing Director of BIMA
  • Luke Platt - CEO of Redweb
  • Gellan Watt - Agency founder and Global brand strategist
  • Sophia (Puff) Story - Chief Changemaker at 3SidedCube
  • With Dan Willis, BIMA 100 Champion for Change and Founder of Why Digital, compering the event

Gellan Watt, Puff Story and Stevie Spring

As part of the discussion Holly Hall, MD of BIMA, highlighted some of the key findings from the Tech and Inclusion Report that was created by the BIMA Diversity council, headed up by Nadya Powell. Some of the stats she shared included:

  • As well as being more stressed, people are 5 times more depressed than the UK average (3.3% in 100 people).
  • 66% of respondents feel stressed in their work
  • 45% of respondents do not feel that there is enough awareness and support for mental health in their company

The panel explored the current challenges faced at a local level as well as nationwide, before looking at positive ways to combat this mental health epidemic.

Holly Hall showing a copy of the Tech and Inclusion report

Mental Health within agencies

It appears the tech industry is one of the first sectors to highlight statistics around mental health and is pushing them to the fore by saying, ‘we need to talk about it’.

Redweb’s CEO, Luke Platt, said “The agency model is shifting and the level of change/uncertainty/lack of control can affect how people feel.”

Luke Platt speaking

Chair of Mind, Stevie Spring, suggested that people who suffer with certain disorders or unhealthy minds are often more creative. She went on to say creativity is a key part of living well, it’s very therapeutic and we need to take care of our own well-being. Some people use stress to be creative, but others can’t be creative when under stress. Stevie also said, “we’re an industry of control freaks” and it’s difficult to tell when a colleague is in trouble as they will often hide it to try and stay in control of their own destiny.

Everyone agreed that burnout in the tech industry is a real thing and we all have a responsibility to look after and nurture our talented employees, particularly when they are vulnerable.

It’s good to talk

A common theme arose; people are more open to talk about mental health experiences after the fact and it’s harder to talk when in crisis as people often feel out of control.

MD of BIMA, Holly Hall, said that talking is really important, but it’s vital to have an established mental health support system e.g. peer to peer support networks, mental health first aiders etc. This is an area that Dorset Mind can provide training in:

The panel also highlighted that it’s important to have honest conversations with your teams and encourage people to be open and transparent, but Sophia Story from agency 3Sided Cube said it takes time to foster this type of culture.

The cost of Mental Health in the workplace

Stevie Spring speaking

Stevie highlighted that there is a £70-90 billion-pound annual cost to our economy through people being off work, not fully being present at work and using NHS services.

Companies must invest in the health and safety of their employees and need to prioritise that spend - it shouldn’t be a ‘nice to do’, but a ‘need to do’.

Compere Dan Willis, founder of Why Digital, shared a statement from Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, from the Thriving at Work report; for every pound invested in mental health, the return on investment is between £1.50 and £9.

Agency founder, Gellan Watt, said that companies “have to see beyond Profit and Loss, and employers have to see people – their personalities, their beliefs and what they care about”.

Colleagues need to feel that their company’s success isn’t just based on financial figures, and organisations should be thinking about company results differently – this is what we should all be pushing for. The panel concluded that we need to talk more about other successes in our companies, rather than just financial achievements.

Health and wellbeing

The panel agreed that mental health is far more hidden than physical health. For example, people might come into work and say they have a sore throat, but often don’t talk about their mental health problems meaning it can be more difficult to spot the signs.

Gellan doesn’t like the term ‘mental health’; “I hate mental health as a phrase, it’s health, we have a physical health, a mental health, it’s health and wellbeing.”

People should feel that they can share problems and help each other solve problems together.

Key takeaways

Alexis Stevens speaking

At the end of the panel discussion, Alexis Stevens, Training Manager at Dorset Mind, provided the audience with some key takeaways to help benefit themselves, employees, colleagues and friends:

  • Infrastructure – have policies, procedures and support in place, so your organisation can deal with mental health issues when they arise in the workplace.
  • Consultancy – senior leadership teams need to make sure they are visible, active and credible in organisations. Organisations also need to put money into support and sharing experiences.
  • Education – peer support and more cross-working needed. People need to learn how to support each other, raise awareness and reduce isolation. We need to connect with resources to empower people to look after themselves and each other.

Alexis also suggested that a local forum of structured support for the creative industry, led by Dorset Mind, is being considered. For people working as freelancers that don’t have that peer support network close by or employee assistance programs, it was suggested that they could be given discounted access to wellbeing groups to get support.

At the end of the event, creatives in the room were given a goody bag to take away that included a wellness action plan and ‘5 ways to wellbeing’.

If you would like to speak to someone at Dorset Mind about how to implement training programs within your organisation, or if you are struggling with your own mental health, please get in touch with them:

Thanks to Libby James Watt for the event photographs.


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