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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Mental well-being is for life, not just awareness week

Helping people identify any issues that may be affecting their mental well-being is a great first step

As I sat outside in the lovely Surrey countryside writing this, I was listening to the birds and enjoying the smells of the first flowers of spring and the sounds of a distant stream.

Why would I share this with you? Well, I wrote it during Mental Health Week and I was embracing this year’s theme
of #connectwithnature. There is a lot of good research supporting the role nature can play in protecting and supporting our mental health.

And you don’t have to travel; embracing the nature and green spaces around us in city parks, gardens or by a river can help lift your mood and help you feel better about things. Sadly, I had to return home as dark clouds appeared and I felt the first spots of rain. But it was a relaxing 15 minutes and it reminded me that I don’t take breaks like this often enough.

Maintain the conversation

By the time you read this, it will be June. Hopefully, the weather will be more predictable, and I wonder if I will remember to set time aside to #connectwithnature? Just because the week is now history, the important messages it delivered need to be ingrained into our working lives and the way we look after our people.

Somebody said to me the other day when discussing potential event subjects, “...not mental health – there has just been so much already on that”. On one level they are right. There has been a lot of talk about mental health in the last few years, especially during the pandemic, which is fantastic, as it is such an important area.

But ‘a lot’ is probably only in comparison to the days when nobody felt able to talk about mental health for fear of being seen as weak, or worse, avoided it because nobody knew what to say or do in response. The reality is mental health is still a significant problem.

So, instead of having a break because it has been discussed a lot, or because the awareness week is over, it needs to be a constant in considering our own well-being and the well-being of those with whom we interact. And as I touched on last month (Sense of belonging, PME May 2021), it is important that all the additional focus placed on mental health during the pandemic is maintained and enhanced, not diminished, as we come out of lockdown.

Personal mental wellness temperature check

Considering this, perhaps ask yourself, and importantly answer, the following (more information at

  • How is your mental health today? (How do you feel mentally and physically)
  • How stressed are you? (Do you have/ are you using coping strategies?)
  • How is your general well-being? (How well did you sleep last night, is your diet balanced, are you drinking enough water?)
  • How is your thinking today? (How are your thoughts making you feel, are you having unhelpful thoughts?)

Then write down a few things that you can do to improve your mental well-being. We can consider these questions regularly as a personal mental wellness temperature check.

If your honest answers raise concerns, consider how to redress the balance. There are useful resources online, but also talk to others at work, home or a healthcare professional, as talking can be an important step to improving mental well-being.

I hope, however, your answers reflect good mental well-being. But don’t stop there. Think of others around you. Not just who you manage, but colleagues and even your managers.

Look for common signs that may reduce somebody’s mental well-being: the emails still coming late into the night, not coping with workloads, sounding stressed in meetings, not stopping for breaks or leaving their desks. All these might be reasons to ask ‘how are you?’.

Now that is an open question, but often receives a closed answer like ‘fine’ or ‘OK thanks’. It’s a stock answer for most of us, however we feel. Helping people identify any issues that may be affecting their mental well- being is a great first step to helping them.

So, perhaps some tactful probing might be needed. But remember, we are all different and what may cause stress for one person may not for another, so it is always about exploring how they feel.

Collaborating on improving mental well-being

The HCA considers metal well-being as a constant and essential component of ensuring the health and well-being of all those who work in our sector.

We are therefore collaborating with other key associations, such as the CIPR and PRCA to undertake a survey to take the temperature of mental well-being in those working in communications across disciplines.

But more importantly, we will then continue collaborating in developing the campaigns and initiatives needed to maintain the focus and provide direction for all those organisations and individuals that we collectively represent. As professional associations, we are of one mind in our role of supporting good mental well-being.

If you are in a communications role, please consider spending ten minutes to complete the survey yourself, perhaps while you #connectwithnature. You can find the survey at:

Mike Dixon is CEO of the Healthcare Communications Association and a communications consultant

29th June 2021

From: Marketing


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