By Louise Jacobson, Managing Partner at Brazen MENA

A simple question, but one we really need to ask each other more. As Covid-19 still grips the world with health risks, economic uncertainty, and movement restrictions – mental health has never been a more important subject in our personal and professional lives.

In the communications industry, mental health is a prevalent topic and I’m pleased that it is being embraced so fully. PRCA MENA currently has its mental health week and MEPRA launched its workplace wellness programme a few months ago following a number of surveys revealed that people in our sector here are suffering mental health issues. I applaud our industry bodies for taking action in such a bold, authentic, and resourceful way. But why is mental health such an issue in communications?

The PR industry has radically changed since I started in 2001. There was no social media, no 24 hours news cycle, we sent content out on fax machines (20 somethings may want to Google this!) and we had no smartphones. Fast forward a few years and our industry and working practices have changed entirely, as many of you well know.

These digital advances have given us exciting opportunities as comms professionals, allowing us to reach new audiences, connect and have a dialogue in a way we never have before. I work in what I believe is the most exciting industry in the world and I’m privileged to do so. However, this hyperconnectivity means our lives are noisier and busier. This presents huge challenges for us in the comms industry, but let’s not forget we’re also human beings balancing work, life, families etc.  In 2019, Ariana Huffington spoke at the ‘World Government Summit’ here in Dubai and said that attachment to mobile phones will lead to a worldwide burnout. I have to agree.

So the nature of our fantastic, but fast-paced jobs are proving to be stressful and coupled with Covid-19 this has exasperated this issue, leading to mental health issues in the workplace, which worryingly for me is affecting the new generation, especially as our industry is typically made up of younger people.

So, what can we do to help ourselves and each other?

As a business leader, it’s my duty to put the mental health of my team at Brazen MENA above anything else, which is why in January 2019 I put in place an employee wellbeing charter. Some of the initiatives include monthly wellbeing hours in addition to holidays where team members can take time out without question if things are becoming too much and annual, confidential, mental health check-ups at Lighthouse Arabia with professionals. I also introduced Wellbeing Wednesday where we get together as a team (with no phones and laptops) ask each other how we are, then do a lighthearted activity to shake off the stress and have fun together with things like playing charades, board games, or colouring in (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!). We practice mindfulness after we were taught the benefits from our friends at Mindful ME, and discovered it’s also used by companies such as Google and Nike.

This is all lovely I hear you say, but has our work suffered as a result? Quite the contrary. My team are happier, less stressed and productivity has increased, so our philosophy of feel great, be great, and do great is clearly working and it’s something we will continue to evolve together.

Personally, I do a number of things to improve my daily wellbeing. I practice morning gratitude before exercising, I do daily affirmations and listen to guided meditations which have made a huge impact on my positive mindset. I’ve cut down on my smartphone time and instead use that time to devote to my personal passions that make me feel good. Here is a list of resources, experts, authors, and speakers that I recommend, most are free and can be found on various social media platforms and I would love to know if you have any recommendations.

The Lighthouse Arabia

Ariana Huffington / Thrive

Idil Ahmed

Marissa Peer

Jay Shetty

Prince Ea

Bob Baker

Good Intentions podcast



Mindful ME

But, the most important thing we can do is ask how someone is? Please ask a colleague, friend or family member today, really mean it, and listen to their response.