In secondary school it always seemed weird that I tended to have more homework than many of my classmates. I took home math problems to finish and papers to revise even though most of my peers accomplished these tasks in the remaining time given to us by our teachers.
Fast forward nearly four years and I have worked longer and harder than many of my friends on nearly every assignment throughout college. Chronic procrastination, difficulty prioritizing tasks, poor time management, failing to meet deadlines and a constant state of feeling anxious and overwhelmed led me to seek professional help for symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Finally, something that could help explain how I am creative and rival the Energizer Bunny’s energy, while also having great difficulty finishing my work.
Still in the early days of learning about the condition, I am encouraged that nearly every article I have read about jobs that suit people with ADHD include, drum roll please… public relations professional! I mean, show me how it could not be a great fit. You get to talk to people, move at a fast pace and see your hard work pay off. David Greenwood, an entrepreneur from Boston who also has ADHD, stumbled upon PR when he was trying to win media coverage for his restaurant. Drawn in by the shiny lights, hooked by the challenge and rewarded with success, Greenwood’s story is not unlike others’ who are trying to decide where they fit and can make a difference.
Peter Shankman is helping shift negative connotations of ADHD to positive. As a PR and social media aficionado, he is encouraging people with the condition to explore their strengths. He also shares his neurodiverse experiences with the neurotypical population because the coping and management habits he has established can be beneficial for a wide range of individuals.
Conditions and disorders such as ADHD can bring good and bad things to conference room table. And the conference room table can give good and bad things right back. No matter the disorder, normalcy, mental health or mental ill-health, one’s occupation should never compromise their well-being: physical, mental or otherwise. According to a survey by PRWeek and PRCA, less than a quarter of “PR employers operate a formal mental health policy.”
The fast-paced, high-demand job that is never the same from one day to the next contributes to some PR professionals mental ill-health. As more employees follow the global trend of bravely speaking out about the importance of mental and emotional wellbeing, employers are making changes to protect their teams and further support their clients.
PR is a bright, shiny toy that is fun to work with but also poses unique challenges that must be managed well for the wellbeing of all parties involved. Educating yourself and others about mental health can change lives, protect someone from harm and promote individual growth.
Because I began taking closer notice of my thoughts, behaviors and habits, I am now seeking the assistance I need to be successful as a student, professional and person. I suppose stumbling upon a career that could suit my brain quite well is just an added bonus!
Erin Smith is a senior from Alexandria, IN, majoring in public relations. Erin is an account manager with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.