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How Event Profs Can Make Mental Health Part of Their Everyday Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but mental health in the event industry is not defined by a year, month, week, or day. It’s defined by actively making it part of your everyday awareness for life, Janice Cardinale writes.

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Janice Cardinale founded the Event Minds Matter community in 2022 to build brave spaces to amplify the event industry's conversation on mental health and well-being in the workplace. She is also program advisory committee chair for the Event Management – Creative Design program at Seneca Polytechnic. Her mission is to bring psychological safety training to all workplaces within the industry in which she spent 20 years.

May is in bloom, with gardens full of flowers and greenery that touch our senses with a feeling of calm and possibility. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, and the truth is that the mental health of our industry is not defined by a year, month, week, or day. It’s defined by actively making it part of your everyday awareness for life.

The practice for many is a lifestyle choice driven by past experience, transformation, and acknowledging that there is more to life than work. It’s about finding your purpose in life and aligning your professional life with it.

There are no current analyses on how many global event industry professionals have changed their work habits, but the demand for therapy both on and offline has quadrupled since 2020. And this rapid increase will have a much larger impact as time goes on.

The theme playing out for some industry professionals points to the little things that matter, highlighting the transformative impact of consistent, small positive actions on overall well-being. The problem is that mental health has been left out of the mainstream conversations that validate human sustainability. This value versus equation theory has crippled the industry, leaving many to suffer in silence.

What is alarming is to witness the number of people who continue to suffer from toxic leadership; the hustle culture; and a lack of education by leaders, HR professionals, and managers who have not been educated themselves on emotional intelligence or psychological safety and health training.

Planners are not immune to long hours, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, or fatigue. These pain points are part of what most sign up for, even if they weren’t expecting it when they entered the industry. Today, many people feel powerless when it comes to changing the narrative because they do not trust or feel safe around their leaders, managers, direct reports, or supervisors. You can’t blame them when the organization has not created a brave space for the employees to have conversations about their emotional health and well-being.

Let’s pretend that Sally, your work colleague, falls and breaks her leg. Do you give her the phone to call emergency services? Do you tell her to be patient until they get there? Do you care? Yes, you care because you can see it and feel it, and emotionally you want to support Sally.

But what if Sally is struggling at work with absenteeism, low productivity, and silence in meetings, and is unable to work with the team and focus on projects that are important to the organization? Many do not know what to say out of fear that they might say the wrong thing. Sally has also never told you that she suffers from ADHD or anxiety disorder. She is also in fear of losing her job and assuming a reputation that labels her for life.

If we dig deeper into the life of an event professional, we can all agree our ability to recover from setbacks and failures is difficult at the best of times. But our unconditional determination to overcome resistance is part of our DNA. So, what is the answer for those trapped in a bubble of fear and stigma?

How can we prepare for conversations about emotional health and well-being at work so that everyone feels comfortable and safe to discuss this sensitive topic?

  • Recommit to core values.
  • Engage in positive social interactions that can identify the signs of stress before it becomes unmanageable.
  • Establish healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Train everyone on an accredited psychological safety course.

These are the cheapest ways to support your people.

In 2024, the greatest concern next to the psychological safety of our human capital is access. With so many independent professionals and small-business owners, most are not covered by insurance or the mounting costs of therapy. Yet our industry needs to embrace an industrywide awareness of what whole-person treatment looks like. This is only achievable through integrated and accountable care supported by a proactive well-being approach.

The keys to unlock the doors are available if you listen to your body and seek support from someone you trust and respect. Ultimately, this is a choice that we can all make if we navigate the path of wellness every day.

While some are speaking more openly about emotional health and well-being, there are millions more who are not. Here are some nuggets to help you support your teams at work.

  • Be open and don’t pry.
  • Be mindful of your language and behavior.
  • Encourage involvement.
  • Encourage utilization of additional support and resources.

When you build safe spaces to have honest conversations, everyone wins. The difference will have the greatest impact collectively and provide everyone with a feeling of being connected and belonging.

This May, challenge your awareness and those you work with. Awareness is free; it enables you to see the best in others when they can’t see it themselves. Awareness can transform someone’s dark moment with a blaze of light.

When was the last time you did something for you? Give yourself a gift this month and put yourself first. You can thank yourself later.

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