We need to talk about the mental health crisis in Canada’s marketing industry

There is a mental health crisis in the Canadian advertising industry. I know because it has impacted my life. As an industry we need to start talking about it for the good of the people working in the business and for the bottom line of our companies.

I’ve worked in the marketing industry for over 12 years, holding key positions and moving up the ranks at some of the biggest global agencies. Transparently, some of the moves between agencies weren’t my choice. I’m simply not suited for the large agency and marketing world as it exists today.

Nowadays nearly everyone is worked to the limit, but the issue feels more pronounced in the agency and marketing world. The data backs this up. According to LinkedIn numbers from 2017, the turnover rate in the marketing industry is 17%, which is 50% higher than the global turnover average of 11% across all industries.

The issue for me, as it is and has been for countless others, was burnout. When business is good the expectations are sky-high. Some people can handle it, but I am able to publicly say that I can’t. Working non-stop, I hid the symptoms of anxiety and mental illness from colleagues and management to keep up the façade that everything was OK.

In agencies and marketing, that burnout is coupled with fear. You work as hard and long as possible but you’re always aware of the fact that you’re expendable. There isn’t any security because marketing teams are always the first to go as soon as a client is lost, or the business needs to make cutbacks.

The lowest point (and eventually the turning point) for me came after my last big agency job. I had a mental health crisis.

How did it get to that point? I had been suffering with the work schedules and unbelievable expectations the industry puts on staff for years but was afraid to say anything and risk looking weak. I thought that if I acted as though nothing was wrong then eventually my problems would go away. Of course, that rarely works, does it?

After I hit rock bottom and quit everything I’d known, I had a lot of time to reflect on my path and where I was headed. I realized that something needed to change, and that change needed to start with me.

Read on later next week as I share the journey that has taken me from struggling with mental illness to launching a successful agency of my own. One that puts the mental health and wellbeing of everyone it works with at the heart of its business.

I realize that reading about mental illness can be triggering if you have or are currently suffering from a similar experience. Know that you are not alone. There are organizations like Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) that have helped me and that are open to talking anytime. You can also reach out to me at Emily@ThinkHatch.ca.

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