What’s it like be­ing an agency boss in the anx­ious age?

Ear­lier in her ca­reer, well be­fore start­ing a cre­ative agency, Dr Jane Cherrington served as the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion be­tween 1995 and 1998. It might’ve been over a decade ago, but what she learnt dur­ing those three years con­tin

New Zealand Marketing - - Editorial -

Why do you think th­ese is­sues have be­come so prom­i­nent in re­cent years?

I think the in­creased promi­nence is def­i­nitely tied to ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness – we are start­ing to think and talk dif­fer­ently about our in­ner worlds. But th­ese are very com­plex sub­jects and for me to of­fer the writ­ten equiv­a­lent of sound bites is not only in­ad­e­quate but a bit un­safe. I’d kick off by say­ing if you are read­ing this be­cause it strikes a chord rather than it be­ing of in­ter­est, then please reach out to get some help.

What is it about the mod­ern world that af­fects our men­tal health?

We live in a tough world. We op­er­ate at such a re­move from the con­nect­ed­ness and bal­ance we need for good men­tal health. Con­text elic­its be­hav­iours - and I think our con­tem­po­rary con­texts can elicit a great deal of angst. The dom­i­nant med­i­cal model overem­pha­sises treat­ment of symp­toms and lo­cates cause as within the in­di­vid­ual. So, we are not in great dan­ger of progress while we pathol­o­gise the per­son and fail to se­ri­ously chal­lenge the so­cial driv­ers.

Are younger peo­ple more prone to anx­i­ety or de­pres­sion?

Is it gen­er­a­tional? Yes, if you mean it is of our era. This is a very big philo­soph­i­cal ques­tion and con­ver­sa­tion. It is no great won­der we suf­fer anx­i­ety when we know at a pri­mal level we are de­stroy­ing the world we live in and our lives are driven by the com­mer­cial ma­chine. And many of us now have been raised with no ‘faith’ as such. Ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis is cre­ated when you have no spir­i­tual an­chor­age or higher pur­pose to an­chor to. But de­spair can be warded off by the mil­lions of daily acts of good that counter the bad. You just have to fo­cus to see them at times.

Are we prej­u­diced when it comes to men­tal health is­sues in ad­land?

Yes. Ev­ery­where is. But it is not nearly as bad as it once was. We have a long way to go, but it re­ally is get­ting bet­ter. That said, we are of our cul­ture. And ad­land cul­ture is not the health­i­est of places at times. Too much booze and drugs. Too much pres­sure. Too lit­tle valu­ing of the per­son at times. Too much putting the job ahead of the real re­la­tion­ships that keep you feel­ing healthy. The best in­di­ca­tors of health are the qual­ity of your close re­la­tion­ships.

Do you think men­tal health is suf­fi­ciently ad­dressed in ad­land?

Ad­ver­tis­ing has its share of men­tal health chal­lenges and, sadly, peo­ple in it – like in any other in­dus­try – have some­times not got the help they needed in time. And some­times hope could not help, if you know what I mean. Are we bet­ter or worse? Prob­a­bly pro­por­tion­ate – but we should recog­nise we are also very priv­i­leged bunch.

What ad­vice would of­fer those work­ing in ad­land?

It is hard to do in a world where dead­lines are tighter, bud­gets smaller and pres­sure greater, but we can break out and be more bal­anced. Take breaks, have hol­i­days, work sen­si­ble hours. Drink less, eat fewer meals at the desk, get ex­er­cise. Go home and hang out with friends, part­ners or kids more. Get out of your box. Go into other neigh­bour­hoods and get real about what tough is, be­cause it is all sub­jec­tive. Some­times hang­ing out with peo­ple who are do­ing it su­per tough can shake us into a bet­ter place. Give back. Do good shit for other peo­ple. Look out for each other. If you see some­one strug­gling - give them time and just lis­ten to them.

Any other thoughts?

I think that to help us be happy we might want to try liv­ing like a very old lady used to tell me I should: ‘Mind what you say. Do the right thing. Treat ev­ery­one the way you’d like to be treated. Look af­ter your­self. Give more than you take. Clean up af­ter your­self. Call me if you need me.’

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