The last 18 months has been hard for a lot of people – particularly those in the events industry. We recently joined EventWell who are a charitable social enterprise, dedicated to educating, campaigning and supporting better mental health and wellbeing in the events industry.
It’s a wonderful initiative that shares knowledge and the tools needed to stay well. It also provides vital relief and support to any event professional affected by poor mental health. We spoke to Helen Moon their CEO who shares her story and how people in events can cope better.
We hope you find it uplifting and useful.
Tell us about EventWell and why you started it?
We’re a charitable social enterprise, dedicated to educating, campaigning and supporting better mental health and wellbeing in the events industry.
EventWell was born out of my lived experience and conversations with other people in the events industry who are passionate about mental health and wellbeing. I’ve been in events for 25 years and involved in thousands of events. I love what I do, our industry and there is nothing better than the buzz.
From a personal note my mental health journey has been 30 plus years. I developed bipolar disorder in my mid-teens and had years of misdiagnosis. Working in our industry there can be peaks and troughs. Its deadline orientated, it’s pressure, it’s difficult and can have as stressful moments during project management. I had a mental health condition trying to get through thinking life was harder than it should be, not knowing what was wrong until I received a proper diagnosis.
In 2017 we started the first event wellbeing week which was meant to be an annual thing. But we realised there was an issue in the industry when we carried out a small piece of research that was backed up by research from other organisations. There are high levels of stress and poor mental health and we knew the industry needed something official.
We’re not really about yoga classes and bubble baths and wellness at work. We’re about mental health and a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. I know from personal experience how serious that is. We made sure that we were asking questions, doing research, and trying to find out what support that not only professionals needed, but employers, businesses and the industry as a whole.
What are the typical stresses and strains that people in the events industry are under?
The 3 top complaints in our industry are stress, anxiety, and burnout. The causes are typical ones we all recognise – customer expectations, workload, travel, and long hours.
Our research showed that interpersonal relationships we have at work also really affect people’s mental health and wellbeing. These are often head-butting moments in a project cycle. It’s just a natural process of people coming together and working together and finding how they fit.
One of the things we do is help people with that project management process and allow them to understand it’s natural to have a little bit of conflict when we’re working in our industry and working with different people.
How can people who work in events cope better?
Coming out of this pandemic we can’t just jump back to the way things were. We need to take a slow assessed approach in terms of how are going to combat this.
How people cope with these issues is all very personal. You can give good advice, but you can’t sit there and say you need to do this, this and that. We’re all individual and have different values and beliefs. What works for someone else isn’t necessarily going to work for you. The most important thing people need to do is find out what rocks their boat. Try something new everyday and see what works for you with the goal of developing healthy habits. Make 2 or 3 small changes, and once they stick you can start adding more gradually.
Do you think it’s becoming more of an open conversation to have, and people see less of a stigma around it?
The stigma around this will be around a long time. What we’re doing and the fantastic work by Mind, Time to Change and other mental health charities are helping to tackle it but there’s still a lot to do.
It’s still preventing people from asking for help, particularly in the workplace, because they feel they might be treated differently or passed over for a promotion.
The mental health movement is about making everybody aware we all have mental health. It’s about creating open communities, platforms, and environments where people feel safe to get help and support when they need it in the same way that they would get help if they were worried about their physical health.
When we start to treat our mental health equally on the same level as our physical health, society will become a place where we are less fearful of mental health.
Do you think companies are realising the importance of their employee’s wellbeing, and putting things in place to help them?
It’s a mixed bag with room for improvement. Career wellbeing has been identified as a foundation of 5 elements that support good mental health. We all want to have a good job, go to work and enjoying it. It’s so much more than good benefits and making people feel happy. It’s a fundamental pillar to good wellbeing.
There could be mental health emergency coming out of this pandemic. Businesses need to really consider how they are going to help people. Not just putting the basics in place but making sure that employees and their teams have the support in place to ensure that they are resilient, and they have the tools and the self-care information to carry themselves through.
What is your advice for how people can cope better as restrictions lift?
Don’t fall in the trap of going back to the way things were before. In this industry you have to work hard. Unfortunately, it’s just the way our industry is. There is going to be long hours. There is going to be travel associated in that. There is going to be difficult relationships with suppliers and stakeholders. You can’t get around that.
But what you can get around is making sure that those times when you work hard, that you are resting hard as well. Make sure you’re taking your breaks. Take your holiday. Make sure you get good sleep.
We need to move away from glorifying long-hours, back-to-back events and no rest. If you’re knowingly doing anything that could have a negative impact on your health without trying to make change, it’s self-harm.
It’s also a mindset and we need to change the record a little bit. None of this is about you working any less than you were working before. It’s about working smarter and it’s about resting, making sure that that the importance on rest is equal emphasis to the importance on working hard.
If you want to know more about EventWell and how they can help you or your business, then find out more here.