This roundtable discussion is provided by the IPR Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Members of the IPR Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (CDEI) gathered virtually to discuss the connection between diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and mental health. IPR CDEI member Dr. Jen Vardeman, Associate Professor at the University of Houston, moderated the discussion.

Participants discussed the intersection of mental health, DE&I, and public relations, and ways employers can normalize prioritizing mental health in the workplace.

Key themes from the discussion include:
— Mental health is seen as a luxury in the public relations field, yet it is the next frontier of diversity and inclusion.
—– Experts in the discussion either had a negative association between mental health and public relations or didn’t consider the two concepts to be related at all.
— Leaders need to have empathy and compassion in an industry that’s “always on.”
—– There is a disconnect between advocating for DE&I and seeing it implemented in the industry or in academia.
— Health challenges can quickly turn into mental health challenges as well if an employee or student is not given the resources necessary for recovery.
— A lack of safe spaces can lead to a feedback loop of practitioners and academics losing faith in their institution and leaving, creating a lack of advocacy for entry level practitioners, academics, or students.
— Company-wide days off or hybrid work environments were identified as ways to ease stress in the workplace.
— However, many issues being experienced in the workplace are the result of larger societal problems.
—– Solutions such as shortened workweeks or higher pay may not work long-term.
— Open, honest and transparent communication from leaders and peers, especially about the importance of mental health, was identified as a way to create a better workplace environment.
—– Examples of this are leaders asking what they can do for their employees, and listening even if they can’t help.
—– Examples in academia are asking about campus environment and concerns that faculty or students might have.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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