The conversation around mental health – both in and outside of the events industry – has definitely changed for the better in recent years, but that being said, we still have a long way to go. It’s certainly more commonplace to hear anyone from an actor to an athlete to a good friend admit to struggling with mental health issues, but we still seem to lack an understanding of what comes next. How do we offer support, how do we ensure that people don’t fall through the cracks, and how do we address the very real stigmas that definitely still exist, despite the steps in the right direction?
These are all super real and relevant questions, and as today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, it feels like a good time to talk about them. We can’t tell you we have all the answers, but we’re here to be part of the conversation, and ultimately we hope to help move the needle forward. First and foremost, if you’re in need of mental health support, let’s start by acknowledging that what you’re feeling is real, that it matters, and most of all that help is out there. Let’s never give up on each other, ok?
Mental Health and the Events Industry
Every event professional is most likely guilty of at some point buying into the idea that “busy” and “stressed” are badges of honour in this industry. It can be so, so easy to share those posts about how we rank in the top 5 for “most stressful jobs,” but when it comes to acknowledging all of the deeper mental health issues that can come out of that reality, we’re a lot less ready to hit the share button. How often do we simply check in and see how our co-workers, colleagues, or peers are actually doing? How often do we check in with ourselves? How much thought do we actually give to the long-term effects of all that stress?
With the Let’s Talk initiative, Bell highlights “5 simple ways to end stigma and start a conversation.” Below, we’ve used that as a starting point to break down some ways that event profs can acknowledge and address mental health in our industry.
It’s time for us to think about the language we use in and around our jobs. The way we talk about stress and anxiety can perpetuate our challenges, and keep us from finding positive solutions. On the flip side, changing the words we use can change our perspective – for example, what would happen if we all stopped talking about how “busy” we are (check out an interesting podcast on this topic)? Or what if we talked about stress from the perspective of managing and mitigating, rather than as a source of bragging rights and a way of one-upping the event prof next to you at the bar?
The words and tone we choose to use during problem solving or a crisis, or quite frankly just in our day-to-day grind, can not only affect our own mindset, but they also have huge impacts on the stress levels of the people around us, including our clients and event partners.
And on a grand and long-term scale, we can empower ourselves to end stigma by being mindful of the way we talk about mental health in our industry. We can all do better and be more thoughtful in the ways we label, react to, and speak about anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues in our industry.
We will be the first to say that we are not experts here, and again, we definitely do not have all of the answers. We’re all in this together – so let’s commit to learning together!
Let’s make mental health education one of the topics at our industry events. Let’s find the experts who do have some answers, and let’s get them into rooms with event profs. The more we educate ourselves and our industry as a whole about mental health, the better we can communicate about and address mental health issues.
It’s so simple, and most of us have been taught this concept since we were small children. But yet, if we’re being honest, we could all use a pretty much daily reminder to just. be. kind.
What many of us may not have been taught as kids is that kindness starts with being kind to ourselves. In this industry (and obviously in many other industries and avenues of life as well), it’s easy to pile the pressure on ourselves as we aim to meet growing demands, stay ahead of the curve, and never drop the ball. We’d suggest that taking time to celebrate your achievements, accept your challenges, and assess and care for your own health and balance is to lead by example.
Take that self-kindness and project it out to your colleagues, vendors, and clients. Use debriefing after events to create a space to (kindly) identify areas to grow, and to share in kind celebrations of everyone’s successes. Think twice about how you speak to those around you, and how your words and your tone could potentially affect them (there’s that Language Matters thing again). Choosing to be kind might require a little effort and practice at first, but it will do just as much for you as it does for those around you. It’s the best kind of win-win.
Listen and Ask
We’re in an industry of making things look easy, even when they aren’t (and let’s face it, they rarely are). That mentality can make it really hard to ask for help, and that mindset is only amplified when the problem is mental health. Not only is it tough for most of us to talk about our own struggles, it’s equally hard to ask someone else how they are doing, or to find the right words when a friend or co-worker does confide in us. No one wants to say the wrong thing, and often the anxiety around that can keep us from having important conversations.
If this is something you struggle with, a good starting point could be to download Bell’s Conversation Guide here. Remember how huge it can be just to listen – really, truly listen – to someone. Just giving another person your undivided attention and letting them talk, without trying to insert your opinions, solve their problems, or shift the conversation, can be huge.
Create a culture and work environment where both listening and asking thrive. Carve out time to be present with your colleagues, just to check in. For example, we take 10 minutes every morning (we call it 10@10) to pulse check how our entire team is going. Having a dedicated time to ask for help and to listen to others can have a huge impact on the culture in your office.
Talk About it
We spend so, so much of our time at work, whether that’s in the office or on-site. It makes a lot of sense that our mental health will often be connected to our work, and that means we need to have the ability and the opportunity to talk about mental health in a work environment and context.
If you’re a leader at your organization, make sure your team knows how to reach out if they need to talk through mental health issues.
As individuals, we need to change our mindsets – “suffering in silence” doesn’t make you tough. As much as we need to be willing to listen and ask, we also need to be ready to talk. Support systems (hello, Adventure Club) are out there. If you’re looking to build a support system, consider joining a local industry association to expand your network of professional peers. We’re huge believers in and have seen so much personal benefit from building community in this way – read this post for more on that. Get people together in any way you can, and get involved yourself!
Mental Health is a Collaboration!
Like everything else we do, the issue of mental health in the events industry is something we really have to take on together. Luckily, event profs are already great at collaboration! We’d love to hear your thoughts about what our industry is doing well, where we’re falling short, and how we can do better at addressing mental health issues.
And most importantly, if you are struggling please reach out for help. You can find some resources here, or talk to someone around you that you trust. No matter how isolated you might feel at times, you’re not alone. The first step is simply to talk about it.