Ashley Davies is a Medical Writer here at the Havas Lynx Group. This week we have been championing Mental Health Awareness Week, and to raise awareness of the importance of this cause, we have introduced a variety of activities each day to re-centre the way we think and talk about mental health. In this blog, Ashley discusses the importance of advocating for helpful change in attitudes towards mental health.

The impact of mental health

Mental health is such a hot topic. It’s been a problem for some time now, but we’re all starting to wake up to its daily realities. Plus, the impact of poor mental health is increasing, especially in the workplace.

In the UK alone, in 2016, mental health issues (including stress, depression, anxiety and more serious conditions such as manic depression and schizophrenia) resulted in 15.8 million working days being lost. Mental health issues cost the UK around £70 billion every year, or roughly 4.5% of GDP. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity. This impact is huge, particularly from stress.

Stress itself is pure biochemistry. It’s hormones. Specifically adrenaline and cortisol. Release of these hormones during stressful situations is our bodies’ way of helping us prepare and cope with trauma, hard-wired by human evolution. Sometimes, stress can be useful. It can help us to push through situations that can be nerve-racking or intense. Long-term though, release of enduring stress hormones can cause serious physical and emotional harm – we can lose sleep, weaken our immune systems, and, increasingly, develop anxiety and depression. The impact of stress is enormous, not just economically, but on our health too.

Mental health and agency life
What does mental health mean for us at the Havas Lynx Group?

By its very nature, life working at a busy, successful agency is intense: short deadlines and the constant strive for perfection. We push our clients, our work and ourselves to the limit – fuelled by the need to do good and do better.

But, it’s not sustainable. For our minds, it’s like running a hatchback on rocket fuel – it works for a while, but eventually it’s more energy than it can handle and it burns out. It’s easy to see how, in an industry like ours, mental health concerns like stress are becoming even more prominent.

It can be difficult to admit to yourself that you’re struggling with poor mental health. It’s harder still to admit it to your loved ones. Perhaps most challenging of all is acknowledging mental health issues at work.

Stigma is a tricky ghost to fight. Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives. Even in 2018, in our world of constant connectivity and openness, it’s more likely that we’d share a selfie rather than our experience of poor mental health, for fear of being misunderstood or thought of as weak.

Put simply, our working life combined with the negative attitude towards mental health in society means that we all need to do better in understanding our mental health and taking positive steps towards managing it.

Managing mental health

At the Havas Lynx Group, we’re working to put mental health and wellness at the forefront of discussion. Mental Health Awareness Week has been running all this week, and we’ve organised a variety of activities to re-centre the way we think and talk about mental health. Obviously, our approach goes way beyond this. We kick-started 2018 by unveiling our Wellness Strategy – as we continue on this journey, we hope to keep achieving helpful change for ourselves.