Mental Health in Comms: Under the tree


Mental health in Comms: HCA collaborates on new industry-wide professional development programme launching to help manage work-related pressure and stress

07 February 2023. In response to recent industry research revealing that more than 90% of communications professionals experienced poor mental health in 2022, today sees the launch of Under the tree: a new free training programme designed to equip agency, in-house and independent communications practitioners with the skills they need to manage work-related pressure and stress. The programme has been developed by integrated communications agency fox&cat, as a CSR commitment to support better mental health across the sector, in collaboration with the Healthcare Communications Association (HCA), Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA).

The 13-week Under the tree programme will include free weekly 45-minute online sessions by trained specialists, and senior leader panel discussions around mental health.  The sessions are constructed around the issues highlighted by the mental health audit, focusing on: critical connection; team mental health safety; resilience and confidence; solutions-focused thinking; mindfulness and me; and mental health leadership. All sessions could be included in personal professional development plans and count towards HCA CPD Certification (  Full information about Under the tree is available here:

The programme sessions themselves are being delivered by Welfy, 100th Monkey, MHFA, Tula Therapies and Morgan Lewis (solutions-focused trainer).

The Mental Wellbeing in PR research findings from December 2022 showed that not only do 90% of PR professionals experience poor mental health, but that this figure is significantly above the average of 69% for workers across all other professional sectors in the UK.1 Of those PR professionals experiencing poor mental health in the past year, less than a quarter (22%) took time off work to rest and recover versus 41% for workers in all other professional sectors.1  Importantly, nearly 60% of PR practitioners cited overwhelming workload as a key source of workplace stress.1

HCA CEO, Mike Dixon, says: “It is perhaps ironic how those who promote good health are themselves susceptible to poor mental health. Through our involvement in this programme, alongside our other wellbeing activity, we hope to help achieve positive changes within the sector. We applaud the fox&cat team for their altruistic commitment and contribution to helping shift the dial with its programme, Under the tree.”

Paul Hutchings, founder of fox&cat, adds: “Agency, in-house and independent practitioners are frequently having to get through very heavy workloads usually with short deadlines, creating highly pressured working environments. I have suffered work-related mental health challenges in the past due to these issues and I continue to manage stress levels in my job to maintain control and balance.”

“The insights provided to us by the likes of the CIPR, PRCA and HCA go a long way to helping identify the issues we face as leaders in communications, and our free-to-all Under the tree programme helps translate these insights into meaningful education to improve the skills we all need to better manage mental health when working in communications.”

CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra says: “Education and commitment to mental health are two key markers for positive change. We are delighted to be partnering with fox&cat on this first-of-its-kind programme, and it is inspiring to see such a young agency step forward to make a difference to mental health in our industry.”

PRCA Deputy Director General, Renna Markson, says: “We have been heavily involved in helping shape the focus areas for fox&cat’s Under the tree programme to ensure the sessions meet the needs of the industry. We are very pleased to be part of this initiative and witness fox&cat take it on and fund it as part of their own specific area of corporate responsibility.”

Further information on the programme

The 13-week CDP-accredited programme has sessions every Wednesday at 12.15 from 22 February through to 17 May. Full session details, session recordings and downloadable resources and top tips will be available at:

As an open-to-all initiative, those who take advantage of these free sessions will receive:

  • education from eleven 45-minute drop-in sessions to introduce the skills and techniques needed to effectively manage pressure
  • two panel discussions aimed at senior leaders between fox&cat, CIPR, PRCA and HCA around the Mental Wellbeing in PR research findings, the importance of training and a look towards the future of mental health in communications  

Why Under the tree?

Under the tree is a safe space where communications professions can come to learn skills that will help them manage work-related pressure and stress.


  1. CIPR/PRCA. Mental Wellbeing in Public Relations 2022. Cited at: (Last accessed: February 2023)