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
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.’