Jon Mew: what defines depression and why don’t we talk about it?

Jon Mew, chief executive officer of the IAB

In thinking about writing this column, I spoke to friends and colleagues about the theme and found that many have either suffered from depression and mental health challenges personally, or know someone close to them who has.

I feel very fortunate that I’ve never suffered from any serious bouts of depression. However, there were certainly times earlier in my career when I had moments of self-doubt, not sure I could cope at work, where everything felt harder and less worthwhile. This pales into insignificance when compared to those who suffer frequently, however I found from talking to others that many people have felt this way too.

Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t speak to anyone and I’ve found that this is also true of many people, particularly males. I recall at Advertising Week, several years ago, Channel 4 claimed – when discussing their Superhumans campaign for the Paralympics – mental health is the unseen disability.

This belief is backed up by a recent YouGov survey that reported three out every five employees (60%) have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work. If formally diagnosed, the most common cause was depression or general anxiety.

While more people, thankfully, are comfortable talking about mental health at work than in 2016, there was still only 13% who felt able to disclose a mental health issue to their line manager.

It is for this reason that the IAB felt it was important to play our part in addressing this issue. As such, I was delighted to announce at IAB Engage in June our partnership with mental health charity Mind.

We feel there is an important role for us to play in improving the profile of mental health within our industry and there is a lot more businesses can do to support people suffering with their mental health.

With your help, that’s exactly what we aim to do.

The partnership contains two distinct objectives:

1) Raising the profile of the brilliant work Mind does to help people suffering from mental health problems within the advertising industry.

2) Help Mind develop its digital communications strategy/

To address the second objective, on 21 September IAB UK and Mind will be hosting an Ideas Hack, bringing together the brightest people in the industry with the most forward-thinking companies, to help Mind solve some of their biggest business challenges.

The hack day will see individual teams tasked with generating as many different ideas as possible in response to some of Mind’s business challenges. Following this session, Mind will shortlist their three preferred ideas and these teams will then have one month to develop and refine them further, culminating in a live pitch at Nonference, our brand-new unconference, taking place in November.

Following the pitch, the winning team will work with IAB and Mind to bring their ideas to life.

Commenting on our partnership, Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “Whether ‘ad land’ or another sector, Mind knows that workplace stress and mental health problems are very common. We want employers to create environments where staff of all levels feel able to talk openly about mental health and know that if they do, they’ll be met with support and understanding, rather than facing stigma and discrimination. We are therefore delighted to partner with IAB UK, to help drive awareness of workplace mental health and the support Mind provides to both employers and staff, while coming up with innovative approaches together with the digital advertising industry at our Ideas Hack."

We hope you can join us on 21 September to help this important cause, or on 1 November at Nonference to help judge the winners.

If not, I hope through the excellent work Mind do and our small part in it, more people in our industry have the courage and support available to speak to someone and seek help if they need it.

Jon Mew is chief executive at IAB UK

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