The industry’s mental health hasn’t improved, and almost half are drinking at risky levels

The second Mentally Healthy survey has revealed that the media, marketing and creative industry’s mental health has not improved since 2018’s inaugural study, and almost half of those surveyed are drinking alcohol at risky or harmful levels.

As in the first study completed 18 months ago, 56% of the more than 1,500 respondents displayed mild to severe symptoms of depression, and 52% symptoms of anxiety – a slight improvement on 2018’s 55%. Yet just 6% feel their company is highly effective in addressing mental health.

A quote from one respondent

One fifth of the group of 1,500 showed signs of severe or extremely severe levels of stress, with 54% showing mild to severe levels of stress. The biggest stressors matched 2018’s findings. The top three were: pressure of our own expectations, pressure from others, and multiple responsibilities.

More than half of the respondents reported a bad quality of sleep, and only 38% said they have high self esteem.

The results for depression [Click to enlarge]

The results for anxiety [Click to enlarge]

“It’s great to see the stigma numbers improving. The 2018 results identified high levels of stigma in our industry and a lot of the projects that the Mentally Healthy Change Group have been working on have focused on smashing the stigma and encouraging people to speak up when they need help,” said Nina Nyman, UnLtd’s chief marketing officer and co-chair of the Mentally Healthy Change Group.

“Whilst the depression and anxiety levels remained high, it seems that we are getting better at talking about our mental health and seeking help.”

Despite this improvement, only 23% said mental health was a high priority in their workplace, and a tiny 6% felt their company is highly effective in addressing the mental health of its staff.

“My manager regularly makes fun of mental illness,” said one respondent.

Those that participated in the study were clear that they prefer structural, embedded assistance at a leadership level over more superficial mindfulness and wellness initiatives.

Just 3% of respondents said yoga classes are ‘absolutely essential’ [Click to enlarge]

Meanwhile, the least important were motivational posters, yoga classes, healthy food, mindfulness initiatives, and mental health first aid officers.

A quote from a survey participant

“The results show clear feedback on where people believe organisations should focus their efforts and it all starts with empathetic, educated leaders who lead by example,” explained Andy Wright, founder of Never Not Creative and co-chair of the Mentally Healthy Change Group.

“In an industry that has a relentless focus on the work, we need to start educating on what an intense focus on people looks like. It’s something that just isn’t taught enough and I know it’s something I was never taught. We’re products of our environment. We need to focus on this before investing in yoga lessons and mindfulness programs, if we want to improve things significantly.”

The research, conducted by UnLtd, Everymind, and Never Not Creative, and supported by the industry’s Mentally Healthy Change Group, used the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS) to identify symptoms of depression and anxiety disclosed throughout the survey process.

The stressors the industry is facing [Click to enlarge]

The COVID-19 study indicated a slight increase in depression (up two percentage points on the main survey’s results to 58%) but a slight decrease in anxiety (46% versus 52%). There was no significant difference in stress levels, and the groups responsible for the studies acknowledged that further research will be required to explore the longer-term impacts of the pandemic.

The industry’s habits during COVID-19 [Click to enlarge]

However, 79% said they are talking to friends and family over video chats more, and 47% have increased exercising.

45% of the industry is drinking at risky levels [Click to enlarge]

“There has never been a greater need or time to provide Australians with the opportunity to fortify their own resilience, mental health and wellbeing across every community and every setting,” she said.

“Make no mistake, this has been a tough time for many and we know people are struggling, especially those within the media, marketing and creative industry. We are dedicated to learning more, listening and exploring through research how and in what way we can support communities and individuals.

“We are determined to ensure the specific needs of those who make important contributions to the community such as individuals who work in media, marketing and creative industries are not only heard but addressed.”

Have you been drinking more or less during lockdown? What do you think about the intersection of work and alcohol? And how do these statistics reflect your experiences? Get in touch for a confidential chat:

If you or someone you care about needs support, please contact:

Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636


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