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Planner wellbeing: Social media, harassment, and making your voice heard

Machel Bogues is the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Manager at the RTPI

A recent report from RTPI Cyrmu highlighted an important issue facing our members: the wellbeing of planners. The report, The Big Conversation, used data from the Institute’s survey of over 200 planners in Wales to reveal a stark image of a profession under remarkable pressure and strain.

Though the conversation focused on Wales, we believe that the results are indicative of the experience members are facing across the UK. Both within the report and on the ground, we can see that the profession is overstretched and facing abuse from sections of the public both in person and online.

Insults and harassment have been exacerbated in the age of social media, creating an environment for misinformation and negative campaigners to skew discussion. 58% of respondents to The Big Conversation survey said social media has had an effect on their well-being, where the public has the ability to express their opinions without recourse.

Emboldened by the anonymity that social media provides, we have seen that online spaces have become places where misogyny, racism, homophobia and ableism have recovered their voices. Social media has shown that perhaps we are not necessarily the inclusive, welcoming society that we had thought we were.

This type of abuse can be devastating to people’s mental health. A 2019/recent UCL study investigating links between sexism and mental health and wellbeing has shown that women are more likely to develop poorer mental health after a sexist experience. Similarly, experiencing racism, ableist abuse, homophobia, and religious abuse is known to cause feelings of isolation, anxiety, anger and stress. 

Last week, we launched a careers survey through our membership magazine The Planner as the next step of our wellbeing campaign. We believe that not only will the data from this survey help us to both understand and advocate for the wellbeing of our members, but it will provide a greater dataset, which will, in turn, help us to understand whether any of our members are being disproportionately affected.

For example, are women planners more likely to face abuse? What type of abuse is faced by our colleagues from Black and Asian communities, disabled planners, those from LBGT communities or different faiths?

We want to  ensure that the planning profession is as diverse as the communities in which and for whom we work to achieve that we must also make sure that we understand all the pressures and stresses that colleagues face.

You can help us to build that understanding by completing our survey here. Your answers and insights will truly help us to understand all the stress that all planners face and determine what action and support we can and should provide.

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