That’s a question I’ve often been asked since Pinch Yourself Communication was launched, so here’s the story behind the name and some of the core beliefs it’s based on…
It was the lowest point in my career. In a moment when I found myself ejected from a redundant global executive role and suddenly unemployed, I decided to share my story and I needed to find the right name to call my personal blog. Continue reading “Why Pinch Yourself?”
As 2022 heads toward its close, we hope you had your share of pinch yourself moments this year.
It’s been another big year for us and we’re grateful for the opportunities to contribute communication and stakeholder engagement support to government and non-profit sector projects. This has included work to improve employee diversity, equity and inclusion, to prepare and respond to data breaches, plan the roll out of national regulatory changes, and review and improve the effectiveness of pandemic communication arrangements.
Thank you to all our clients for your ongoing trust and support – we value our connection with you. We exist to help you achieve measurable business and community outcomes through effective communication and storytelling.
With the outlook for more disruption, challenges and opportunities in 2023, we look forward to helping your team make the most of every opportunity.
In the meantime, whatever your beliefs and traditions, we wish you a safe and enjoyable festive season and good health, happiness and purposeful endeavours in the year ahead.
We’re taking a break through to 16 January and look forward to seeing you in 2023.
A young woman sits at her keyboard to write an article, but her chest feels like it’s crushed in a vice and pain stabs her left arm. Classic symptoms of a deadly condition, or so she thinks. As unlikely as it seems for a woman in her 20s, she must be having a heart attack. She tells nearby co-workers, and they urge her to see the company nurse.
That’s where she learns she’s not having a heart attack. She’s suffering from an acute mental health issue. It’s a severe stress reaction brought on by a court case the young journalist has sat through for days — a case involving the vicious bashing and rape of an elderly grandmother in her own home for which the journalist will now be debriefed by a qualified psychologist.
Putting yourself in this journalist’s shoes, would you speak up to your colleagues if you thought you were having a heart attack?
What if you thought you were having a mental health episode?
I’ve thought a fair bit about the answer to those questions, because the young journalist was me at an earlier point in my career.
How might this have played out had I suspected my issue was mental, not physical? Would I have spoken up so readily or suffered in silence as so many employees do across industries, age groups, genders and the globe?
The mental health stigma is one of the biggest barriers to people getting the support they need.
In addition to raising awareness of mental health symptoms and where to seek help, addressing stigma is perhaps the greatest area where communication professionals can contribute to creating mentally healthy workplaces.
That’s one of seven insights I gathered after leading the communication strategy on a life-saving mental health program by Ambulance Victoria (AV). AV employs about 5,000 paramedics who provide emergency pre-hospital care for almost 7 million people in the Australian state of Victoria.
Tragically, in 2015, the rate of suicide by Victorian paramedics was four times the state average and three times that of other emergency services personnel such as police and fire fighters.
AV CEO Prof. Tony Walker, ASM, recognized that something had to change. How could the organization create a work environment where people felt safe to speak up about mental health and get the support they needed? Communicators can follow these seven recommendations for prioritizing mental health and supporting employees in the workplace.
1. Partner with the experts.
When people’s well-being and lives are at risk, it’s not a time for guesswork or experimenting. AV partnered with mental health organizations beyondblue, Phoenix Australia Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health and Black Dog Institute. Mental health experts bring much-needed expertise and credibility to your research, strategy and programs and offer external voices to start a conversation with your workforce.
2. Stigma is a barrier and a symptom.
As well as creating fear to speak up and get help, stigma can make symptoms worse for people with a mental health concern, exacerbating feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression. Reducing stigma as both a barrier and a symptom is core to any mental health strategy, including addressing its intersection with diversity, equity and inclusion.
Because of the stigma, fewer than half the paramedics were comfortable to talk about their mental health concerns to a colleague, and 40% said they wouldn’t talk to their manager. Along with training to help staff recognize symptoms and understand available support, AV fostered safe conversations within teams by encouraging staff to make a “mental health pledge” about what they would do differently. The CEO and other executives showed transparent leadership by sharing their own mental health experiences.
3. Mental health factors may not be obvious.
It may be surprising to learn the trauma a paramedic deals with on a daily basis is not necessarily the biggest factor impacting their mental health. Administrative factors also take their toll, including shift work and its impacts on sleep and relationships, as well as unplanned overtime which causes stress and family conflict.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the prevalence of mental health concerns around the world, with recent Australian research finding major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders have increased by more than 25% worldwide. During the pandemic, health and support agencies around the globe have reported significant spikes in people seeking help.
If there’s any silver lining from the pandemic, it’s that mental health has gone from being perceived as an issue for the few to a potential concern for many and, as a result, the conversation is becoming more open.
The mental health factors affecting your employees may not be obvious, so it’s important to seek their input. Conduct surveys, hold focus groups, provide channels for people to give feedback and use the insights to target well-being initiatives and communication activities where it will do the most good for your people.
4. Integrate communication from the outset.
This feels obvious for us as communication professionals, yet how often is the communication function brought to the table only when an initiative is “ready to launch”?
When AV’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2016–2019 was written, key aspects of the communication strategy were included in the organizational strategy. By making the promotion of mental health at all levels of the organization one of the four strategic objectives, we entrenched the organizational commitment to ongoing communication.
5. Avoid the temptation to launch and leave.
To achieve meaningful and lasting change, any cultural shift takes shared purpose, commitment and teamwork. That’s particularly true in tackling stigma.
The AV mental health strategy started with a three-year framework, and AV continues to review and build upon that initial work. After the first year, paramedics were already more willing to talk to someone. Less than one third indicated they would not speak to a colleague, which was down from 50% or more. Fewer than 25% were unwilling to speak to their manager, which was down from 40%. Some 90% or more were now able to identify the warning signs and were familiar with self-care strategies and the available treatments and supports.
6. Authentic storytelling is not easy, but it works.
Storytelling is a powerful weapon against stigma, but it can take creativity and persistence to get people talking about their mental health.
At AV, we found paramedics’ family members — a wife, a mother and a husband — who were willing to speak on camera, and their comments were moving and powerful. A couple of years on, one of the biggest symbols of success was finding paramedics willing to tell their own story. One paramedic was featured in the Ambulance Today magazine, along with an in-depth look at the AV case study.
7. You can’t help others if you don’t look after yourself.
Communicators are good at putting the needs of the business ahead of their own, and unfortunately that’s reflected in United Kingdom and Australian research identifying significant rates of stress, anxiety and depression within our profession. We must take better care of ourselves to best take care of our colleagues and clients.
As COVID and the acceleration of digital transformation redefine our workplaces and workforces, businesses are resetting ways of working that blend home and work like never before. We should strive to bring more “heart” into business and business communication. That starts with recognizing our employees as human beings and making it safe for them to bring their whole selves to work.
How will we measure when we have been successful?
When a mental health issue carries no more stigma than talking about something physical, like a heart attack.
Part of the Effective Communication series from Pinch Yourself Communication
A telecommunications company with dropouts in its broadband service; a grocery chain that accidentally charges customers twice for the same groceries; a big bank that fails to detect and stop money laundering transactions; a CEO who continues to fly first class while saying everyone must tighten their belts to cut costs; and a colleague who fails to meet an agreed deadline.
A digital communication project led by Pinch Yourself Communication has been recognised with a Bronze Quill Award in 2020 by the Victorian chapter of the International Association of Business Communication.
It’s a mark of our socially distant and disrupted year that the award was conferred by mail in recent weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions. Our thanks to IABC Victoria for their significant effort to ensure winners received the recognition they deserved despite challenging times.
The project for which Pinch Yourself Communication was recognised – with both a Gold Quill and Bronze Quill in 2020 – was delivered for a wonderful non-profit organisation that’s also been grounded by the pandemic this year.
Our Bronze Quill award was presented for the Fearless Flyers digital hub, an integrated digital and social media strategy and channels including a new website: fearlessflyers.com.au, developed in partnership with our Fearless colleague Vicki Huggins. This has given Fearless Flyers a low-cost, resource-effective way to connect with potential new clients and foster a community among inspirational course graduates, backed by the digital processing of bookings and payments.
The Bronze and Gold Quill Awards are presented annually by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) in recognition of communication excellence.
We hope circumstances will enable our pro bono client Fearless Flyers to find their wings again soon and in the meantime, we send our best wishes to all their volunteers and to everyone in the aviation sector who continues to do it tough due to COVID-19 impacts.
It’s been a year that has also mobilised and tested the communication profession globally, and as communicators rose to meet those challenges and help people navigate uncertainty, isolation and change, they have undoubtedly laid down the foundations for some stellar entries for the next Gold Quill awards.
All the best to all our fellow communication professionals who are working on their Gold Quill entries over the next month and congratulations to all our fellow winners for 2020 – Bronze and Gold – from here in Victoria and right around the world.
These awards reflect a standard of innovation, impact and excellence in communication that makes a real difference for our profession, for the organisations with which we work and for our communities.
Pinch Yourself Communication’s Mairi Barton has been recognised on the global stage today with a Gold Quill Award in 2020 for her pro bono work with client Fearless Flyers Inc.
We are delighted to share this honour with our Fearless colleague Vicki Huggins – a dedicated and skilled volunteer, communicator and stakeholder manager – and all the aviation expert volunteers who make Fearless Flyers so special.
Fearless Flyers is a non-profit organisation staffed by expert aviation sector volunteers and we’re proud to contribute to their mission to help people overcome their fear and enjoy the freedom of air travel.
You can learn more about their great work at: fearlessflyers.com.au – including the history of the inspirational female aviators, such as Nancy-Bird Walton, who helped pioneer the organisation’s courses.
It’s a bittersweet time for this award given the disruption to the aviation sector, with so many aviation companies and workers facing uncertainty, and Fearless courses on hold for now. We will get through this and Fearless will get back to helping people overcome their fear of flying.
The Gold Quill Awards are presented annually by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) in recognition of communication excellence.
Our award was presented for the Fearless Flyers digital hub – an integrated digital and social media strategy and channels including a new website. This has given Fearless Flyers a low-cost, resource-effective way to connect with potential new clients, foster a community among course graduates, and process bookings and payments.
It is an honour once again for Pinch Yourself Communication, and another of our wonderful clients, to be recognized among so many outstanding communication professionals and organisations globally.
Congratulations to all the winners, including all those from here in Victoria!