An Elephant in the Room

Over the years I have seen various images illustrating an “elephant in the room”, the huge issue that everyone knows is there, but ignores. The illustrations always seem to be in a management context. The meeting room with the elephant standing on the table. An open office with an elephant swinging its trunk to and fro on an office chair knocking paper for six all over the place. Managers with an elephant leaning over them like a fearsome ghoul. Pink elephants, purple elephants and green elephants. Sometimes managers can see the elephant. Sometimes managers cannot see the elephant. Some managers won’t see the elephant, ignoring its ever-present glaring presence.

One of the most significantly ignored elephants is the elephant of mental health. Now, we will all admit the situation today is far better than it was 30 years ago. And, we all know or know of someone who’s experienced a psychotic episode, someone who’s committed suicide, someone who is depressed or bipolar or schizophrenic. They are usually someone close to us, in our intimate circle, or perhaps the information was gleaned from the office grapevine. It’s time we started talking openly about mental health issues.

If I had a physical health problem, such as a broken leg, you’d queue up to sign the plaster cast and fuss around me over comfy chairs and support for the broken leg at the right height. If I admitted I was depressed the conversation would most likely die to an embarrassed silence, followed by people disappearing off to the kitchen or bathroom ostensibly to use the facilities but in reality to gasp “OMG” in false whispers, hiding their mouths behind sheltering hands.

I have mental health, you have mental health. I have physical health, you have physical health. I may be afflicted by physical ill health, you may be afflicted by physical ill health. I may be afflicted by mental ill health and you may be afflicted by mental ill health. So what’s the big deal? Let’s talk about it.

In any one year, one in four adults will be affected by mental ill health. That’s 25% of us. Look around your office, your family, the sports club, they are out there, members of our community, members of our society suffering from mental ill health, right now. The overall cost of mental health problems to UK businesses is estimated in excess of £26 billion per year, some £1200 per employee. 70 million working days are lost each year to mental health issues. If it’s that important financially to businesses and to the economy is there anything we can do to reduce that cost? Yes, definitely. If we can identify mental ill health early by getting ourselves educated through a mental health first aid course we can save ourselves, our employers, our communities, our NHS and our nation a small fortune. Forewarned is forearmed and a response is better than a reaction.

Would you know what to do when it happens and someone you love, work with, someone you know, a stranger on a bridge high over a river is affected? If not you can learn the skills, gain the knowledge and respond appropriately. Who knows you may even save a life.

To learn more about mental health first aid courses please contact me


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