In May, we did a series of Q&As with PR industry professionals who are taking action around mental health. But, of course, mental health issues aren't limited to just one month so we're continuing this series, especially now as more stressors are complicating the mental health crisis within PR.

In this Q&A, we speak to Leslie Garcia, founder of the Counseling Space. Garcia, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, created Counseling Space to help women who are struggling with the mental challenges associated with business ownership and professional leadership. She has more than 15 years experience in the mental health field and educates others on the importance of preventative mental health and mental wellness plans. 

Q&As in this series: Leslie CampisiJo-Ann Robertson | Barbara Bates | Leslie Garcia 

Aarti Shah: The PR industry is so stressful that professionals are especially prone to burnout, depression and anxiety. The pandemic has also limited the ways that people can alleviate stressors. What are you finding works for busy professionals to relieve stress right now?

Leslie Garcia: What I recommend is a four-step process, each stage a building block for the next. The stages are: Acknowledge, Assess, Act, and Accept. The first step is acknowledging and understanding the cost of taking on the weight of the world. Next, is assessing your core values and determining whether your current life is in alignment with those core values. In a quiet moment, make an inventory of the mindsets, habits, and relationships that bring you joy or drain you, and decide which connections and circumstances you need more and, most importantly, less of.

Then, it’s time to act by establishing a dedicated wellness routine in which you nourish all eight dimensions of wellness (physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental). How you do this will be informed and reinforced by the core values you previously explored. Your wellness work should, however, include a gratitude and self-compassion practice, whether through journaling, affirmations, guided-audio meditations or movement.

Finally, if after acknowledging, assessing, and acting, you still feel overwhelmed or adrift, I encourage delegating tasks to others or seeking professional help. Statistically, many wait over three years to finally seek the professional help that they need!

Above all, respect where you are, with no comparison. There’s value to every stage in this process; be patient with yourself in the present moment. 

AaS: Because PR is 89% white, there are stressors unique to being a person of color in this industry. How would you advise PR industry leaders to address stress and mental health with their employees of color, in particular, Black employees? 

LG: Black employee stress and mental health need to be tackled on two levels: operational and cultural.

If it hasn’t been done already, industry leaders need to be proactive in reviewing and ensuring that the Human Resource department is equipped to provide culturally competent wellness services and resources to Black employees. Policies should prioritize these employees’ entire well being, including physical, mental and financial health, all year round. Access to culturally competent mental health professionals should also be provided and wellness programs regularly evaluated for multicultural competency through anonymous needs assessment surveys that capture any gaps related to diversity and inclusion.

On a cultural level, industry leaders need to lead the charge on challenging racial bias in a predominantly white industry by staying informed through education (trainings, books, etc.). It’s not enough to encourage diversity and inclusion programs without tackling systemic inequality through the cultivation of cultural knowledge, awareness and sensitivity.

Companies hoping to construct a diversity and inclusion initiative must encourage all employees to become active advocates. One approach is using data analytics to assess whether employees feel included and can be themselves. Secondly, explorations and conversations about race should be activated and facilitated by trained professionals and therapists. Thirdly, diversity committees should themselves be diverse so that protocols and diversity event planning is executed from a variety of cultural viewpoints — because a standardized program will not accommodate or effectively address the professional preferences and holistic health needs of a diverse workforce.

AaS: Do you have any advice for employees of color working in a predominantly white environment? And perhaps how white employees can support their colleagues of color?  

It’s taxing for employees of color to have to tread cautiously to avoid upsetting the majority group’s ecosystem. My advice to employees of color, who work in less culturally sensitive environments, is to build a community outside of the office where they can connect, sympathize with, support and be supported by others in similar situations. For those working with organizations that have a genuine interest in diversity and inclusion, but are struggling with the execution, I would suggest being your own advocate. Educate them about unfair practices, microaggressions, isolation and tokenism to the requisite departments and personnel. This input is exactly what they need to create a more multiculturally competent workplace.

The main ingredient to dismantling implicit biases and exercising empathy is to seek knowledge in various ways. The more you learn, the more you begin challenging your own stereotypical beliefs. On a larger scale, suggest racial bias training to leadership and speak up publicly about the iniquities that you notice, so your colleagues of color don’t need to. These are just the tip of the iceberg but are ways to level the playing field and foster safe spaces for difficult conversations. After all, cultural misunderstandings essentially stem from a failure to communicate and seek valid information.

AaS: What is a Wellness Plan?

LG: Counseling Space helps their clients create customized wellness plans in which their symptoms, resources, and time are considered. The end result is a personalized, goal-oriented strategy through which our clients reach their full potential. In essence, our wellness plans are measurement-based and actionable healthcare plans that a client commits to when prioritizing their mental health.

AaS: Should organizations bring in mental health professionals to help their employees create wellness plans — or is it more effective when employees seek this out on their own? 

LG: Both.

However, the value of an employee having access to a mental health professional at work is that the effort, fear, and shame that are, very regularly, part of the process of finding an ideal mental health professional, is taken away. This makes it easier for an employee who needs care to access, acquire and accept it. The benefit of an employee seeking a mental health professional on their own is that they may have more leverage to shop around for a therapist that they identify with.

What’s most important, however, is that organizations consistently evaluate their employee mental wellness programs by multicultural competency standards. The culture of organizations should embrace the message that sound mental health is imperative for employee and company success and, thus, should not be stigmatized.

Q&As in this series: Leslie CampisiJo-Ann Robertson | Barbara Bates | Leslie Garcia 


1. The PR industry is so stressful that professionals are especially prone to burnout, depression and anxiety. The pandemic has also limited the ways that people can alleviate stressors. What are you finding works for busy professionals to relieve stress right now?

 

 

What I recommend is a 4-step process, each stage a building block for the next. The stages are: Acknowledge, Assess, Act, and Accept. The first step is acknowledging and understanding the cost of taking on the weight of the world. Next, is assessing your core values and determining whether your current life is in alignment with those core values. In a quiet moment, make an inventory of the mindsets, habits, and relationships that bring you joy or drain you, and decide which connections and circumstances you need more and, most importantly, less of.

 

Then, it’s time to act by establishing a dedicated wellness routine in which you nourish all eight dimensions of wellness (physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental). How you do this will be informed and reinforced by the core values you previously explored. Your wellness work should, however, include a gratitude and self-compassion practice, whether through journaling, affirmations, guided-audio meditations or movement.

 

Finally, if after acknowledging, assessing, and acting, you still feel overwhelmed or adrift, I encourage delegating tasks to others or seeking professional help. Statistically, many wait over three years to finally seek the professional help that they need!

 

Above all, respect where you are, with no comparison. There’s value to every stage in this process; be patient with yourself in the present moment. 

 

 

 

2. Because the PR industry is 89% white there are stressors unique to being a person of color in this industry. How would you advise PR industry leaders to address stress and mental health with their employees of color, in particular, Black employees? 

 

Black employee stress and mental health need to be tackled on two levels: operational and cultural.

 

If it hasn’t been done already, industry leaders need to be proactive in reviewing and ensuring that the Human Resource department is equipped to provide culturally competent wellness services and resources to Black employees. Policies should prioritize these employees’ entire well being, including physical, mental and financial health, all year round. Access to culturally competent mental health professionals should also be provided and wellness programs regularly evaluated for multicultural competency through anonymous needs assessment surveys that capture any gaps related to diversity and inclusion.

 

On a cultural level, industry leaders need to lead the charge on challenging racial bias in a predominantly white industry by staying informed through education (trainings, books, etc.). It’s not enough to encourage diversity and inclusion programs without tackling systemic inequality through the cultivation of cultural knowledge, awareness and sensitivity.

 

Companies hoping to construct a diversity and inclusion initiative must encourage all employees to become active advocates. One approach is using data analytics to assess whether employees feel included and can be themselves. Secondly, explorations and conversations about race should be activated and facilitated by trained professionals and therapists. Thirdly, diversity committees should themselves be diverse so that protocols and diversity event planning is executed from a variety of cultural viewpoints — because a standardized program will not accommodate or effectively address the professional preferences and holistic health needs of a diverse workforce.

 

 

3. Do you have any advice for employees of color working in a predominantly white environment? And perhaps how white employees can support their colleagues of color?  

 

 

It’s taxing for employees of color to have to tread cautiously to avoid upsetting the majority group’s ecosystem. My advice to employees of color, who work in less culturally sensitive environments, is to build a community outside of the office where they can connect, sympathize with, support and be supported by others in similar situations. For those working with organizations that have a genuine interest in diversity and inclusion, but are struggling with the execution, I would suggest being your own advocate. Educate them about unfair practices, microaggressions, isolation and tokenism to the requisite departments and personnel. This input is exactly what they need to create a more multiculturally competent workplace.

 

The main ingredient to dismantling implicit biases and exercising  empathy is to seek knowledge in various ways. The more you learn, the more you begin challenging your own stereotypical beliefs. On a larger scale, suggest racial bias training to leadership and speak up publicly about the iniquities that you notice, so your colleagues of color don’t need to. These are just the tip of the iceberg but are ways to level the playing field and foster safe spaces for difficult conversations. After all, cultural misunderstandings essentially stem from a failure to communicate and seek valid information.

 

 

 

4. What is a Wellness Plan?

 

Counseling Space helps their clients create customized wellness plans in which their symptoms, resources, and time are considered. The end result is a personalized, goal-oriented strategy through which our clients reach their full potential. In essence, our wellness plans are measurement-based and actionable healthcare plans that a client commits to when prioritizing their mental health.

 

 

 

5. Should organizations bring in mental health professionals to help their employees create wellness plans — or is it more effective when employees seek this out on their own? 

 

Both. 

 

However, the value of an employee having access to a mental health professional at work is that the effort, fear, and shame that are, very regularly, part of the process of finding an ideal mental health professional, is taken away. This makes it easier for an employee who needs care to access, acquire and accept it. The benefit of an employee seeking a mental health professional on their own is that they may have more leverage to shop around for a therapist that they identify with.

 

What’s most important, however, is that organizations consistently evaluate their employee mental wellness programs by multicultural competency standards. The culture of organizations should embrace the message that sound mental health is imperative for employee and company success and, thus, should not be stigmatized.