Mental Health Awareness Week: what media companies are doing
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and for the advertising industry it could not come sooner.
According to recent NABS data, calls to the wellbeing charity relating to mental health increased 15% year-over-year in Q1 2022, leading to a 50% year-over-year increase in therapy referrals made by NABS.
As The Media Leader editor Omar Oakes writes in his latest column, it is no surprise that workers in the media industry, which is itself going through a tumultuous period, are suffering from frustrations, burnout, and grief in a changing, post-pandemic world.
In recognition of the week, The Media Leader contacted several leading media companies to understand what policies are in place to support their employees’ mental health, especially during a week that is meant to shine a light on the struggles everyone at some point in their lives is likely to have experienced.
Common threads are meditation and mindfulness sessions, educational lessons and resources, and ensuring that mental health first aiders are trained and available for anyone who may be struggling in the office.
While GroupM’s various agencies (Mindshare, MediaCom, Wavemaker, Essence, and mSix&Partners) all have their own mental health initiatives, GroupM itself is providing a slate of programs for Mental Health Awareness Week including an in-person session with Patrick Melville, a planned meditation with Inner Space, a Bake Sale to benefit Age UK, a picnic, and an official attempt to set the Guinness World Book of Records for Mental Health by gathering at least 2,000 people for a 60-minute online mental health awareness lesson.
More generally, across GroupM, including Finecast, Xaxis, and Choreograph, there are 20 trained Mental Health Allies who provide a sympathetic and open ear to employees who may be struggling as well as signposting individuals to a range of resources, some of them curated by the Allies themselves. Further, through GroupM’s partnership with My Family Care, they also have access to up to six free sessions regarding childcare, eldercare, and school holiday cover.
On air, Channel 4 is screening bespoke content for Mental Health Awareness Week, including a new documentary featuring Will Young speaking about losing his twin to alcoholism, among other relevant content.
For staff, C4 offers wellbeing support year-round, including the Employee Assistance Programme to Mental Health First Aiders and an employee network called 4Mind which meets regularly and provides tailored events to members such as special guest speakers and mindfulness and meditation sessions.
C4’s in-house creative industry also created its Lonely Giant channel ident to draw attention to the theme of loneliness in support of the week.
Havas Media Group
For Mental Health Awareness Week, Havas Media Group is hosting a panel and Q&A on ‘Sparking Connection’ in their offices as part of a greater theme of addressing loneliness. There will also be meditation sessions as part of their weekly Wellness Wednesdays policy. Furthermore, managers and leaders will also have specific sessions to learn and discuss the importance of mental health, and on Friday, Havas Media Group will formally launch a new partnership with Self Space, a contemporary mental health service aiming to normalise the conversation about mental health at work.
Havas Media Group also has broader mental health policies, such as the “Havas Equalise Strategy” programme which has been the recipient of multiple awards, allocating one mental health day for staff per quarter, providing bespoke mental health training for managers, having a number of trained mental health first aiders across the company, and creating a Wellness Lounge in the workspace.
Publicis and Spark Foundry
Spark Foundry CEO Pete Edwards told The Media Leader that Publicis Groupe UK is hosting a few events this week, including welcoming a neurodiversity specialist coach to come in and speak about developing a greater understanding of neurodiversity in the workplace, as well as hosting a fundraiser in partnership with award-winning male mental health charity Talk Club. Employee Action Groups are further hosting a virtual fair to find out how the company can be more inclusive in the workplace.
At Spark Foundry specifically, Edwards says they have trained a host of ‘mental health ambassadors’ within the workforce that host regular drop-in sessions, and they encourage all members of staff to take a wellness hour each week. Other highlights include a monthly Bring Your Dog to Work Day and social activities such as Beer Club, Run Club, Book Club, and Adventure Club.
“There’s no question that good mental health and supporting employees should be of the utmost priority for all agencies – and employers in general,” Edwards says.
OMD EMEA this week has a large slate of content planned, including a webinar on loneliness, a mindfulness meditation session, adding Calm into their “Nook”, a private space in the office to relax, meditate, or pray, and a personalised financial planning clinic to help relieve potential financial stress for employees.
The Omnicom agency network is also partnering with NABS for a session on mental health, especially for working parents.
In the UK, Mediahub provides a variety of support initiatives for mental wellbeing, including annual charity ventures, monthly half-days for mental health, access to a free Headspace membership for therapy via health insurance, 14 trained mental health first aiders, physical health supports such as agency football, running, and netball clubs and discounted gym memberships, and monthly “pulse” surveys to check in on people’s mental and physical health regularly.
In the US, since last year Mediahub has offered free confidential wellness check-ins with professional counsellors. It also offers monthly webinars around stress reduction to employees and their families, significant annual discounts on subscriptions to mindfulness/meditation apps such as Headspace, and resources and trainings for managers to help them handle conversations around mental health.
For Mediabrands UK&I, employees across offices this week will have access to a variety of mental health offerings, including a radio show, lunchtime walks, “Busy Lady Bingo”, training sessions, and “Tea and Cake with Gnome at Home”.
The programming schedule was created by Mediabrands’ Mental Health Network, which is composed of colleagues from all agencies in the company’s network and supported by their Mental Health Champions, Mediabrands’ trained mental health first aiders.
Mediabrands also offers free access to meditation app Headspace and a 24-hour confidential employee assistance phone line alongside signposting to organisations such as NABS.