Communications and Mental Health: How We Can Break Down Stigma

As professional communicators, we’re at the forefront of the movement to de-stigmatise mental health. Student Comms Chat’s Ross Monaghan sat down with Mairi Barton from Pinch Yourself Communications to talk about mental health within organisations, and how communications professionals can help.


None of us are immune to the effects of a high-stress work environment, however, it can be difficult to talk about the long-term effects of these stressors. Mairi observes that communication has a massive role in breaking down stigma and addressing mental health; ‘We’re not psychologists, but we’re passionate about the topic, we recognise the importance of it’. Understanding how to address and discuss mental health within the workplace is an important conversation for us to have as communicators because the more we talk about the issue, the easier it is for people to seek and provide help. 

When asked how mental health issues and the perception of mental health has changed over the years, Mairi notes that we’re quickly seeing an increase in these conversations. Her work with paramedics revealed there is an increasing concern for the well-being of emergency services personnel. Further, the social and financial impacts of COVID-19 increased calls about anxiety to Beyond Blue by 50 per cent. As organisations felt the blowbacks of the pandemic, communications professionals are at the frontline, helping organisations to respond.

Mairi points out that a big problem is that from a young age, we’re not taught to look after ourselves. Ross notes that early in his career discussions about mental health were met with suggestions to ‘toughen up’ and often, workplace stress was relieved at the local pub on a Friday night. Thankfully the way we deal with these issues has evolved with a focus on early intervention and self-care. However, many people are still not aware of the resources available to them. 

Mairi recounted a time in her previous journalism career when, after covering a particularly horrific rape trial for a week, she experienced a severe stress reaction that she initially mistook for a heart attack. After this, she was offered a debriefing session to help her recover. After talking with her colleagues she discovered that many of them were not aware these sessions were an option and that her experience had shed light on the array of options available. She highlights the importance of having these conversations with co-workers, so they can feel supported and look after themselves.

‘I can tell from experience, once you speak up it’s like a weight lifted’

Mairi Barton

Mairi also gave her 7 insights to create a mentally healthy workplace based on her work with Ambulance Victoria:

As communications professionals, we need to do what we do best. Communicate!

When we start conversations around mental health we’re creating a more open and understanding workplace. If you want to learn more about Mairi’s 7 insights and her work on mental health communication check out her blog HERE.

If you or someone you know is struggling please reach out:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au

Beyond Blue’s coronavirus support service: 1800 512 348 or coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 or kidshelpline.com.au

Headspace: 1800 650 890 or headspace.org.au

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