“Out of sight out of mind” the proverb goes…

Hide the biscuit tin and only keep healthy food in your house – so you don’t have the urge to eat too many biscuits.

Keep your enemies at a distance – so that they don’t have the chance to make you feel anger, upset or pain.

Make sure you live far away from work – so that you don’t have to walk past the office every weekend.

The idea that we forget about or don’t give much consideration to something that we cannot see is certainty an interesting one when it comes to thinking about our health. We can’t question the difficultly experienced by someone who has a broken leg and is hobbling around on crutches. We can only empathise when we see someone grey-faced, sneezing, coughing and looking very unwell. We can’t doubt how sick someone is when they are bed-ridden with a serious infection or are throwing up and clearly very unwell…

but what about that person working hard at their desk silently suffering with severe depression – or that person who spends every lunch break so anxious that she finds it hard to come back to her desk - what about that guy who wonders whether he could just jump in front of the train rather than boarding it to come into work in the morning - what about that woman who is miserable as she binge eats in her lunch break and then hides all the chocolate and crisp wrappers away?

Mental illness isn’t taken as seriously as physical illness because it is not something that we can see…and often that isn’t anyone’s fault. Whilst we would rush to provide CPR to someone who was having a heart-attack, we often wouldn’t even know that the person with severe depression was thinking of taking their own life. What we can do however, is to start encouraging conversations about mental health in the workplace – to de-stigmatise mental illness and even praise people for speaking up about what is going on in their minds.

As it isn’t something that we can see - it is difficult for those who have never experienced mental illness to understand how much it can have an impact on someone’s life. The World Health Organisation has compared the severity of some mental health conditions against physical illness and suggests, that often:

- severe anxiety can have a greater impact on someone’s life than severe motor impairment;

- severe depression can have a greater impact on someone’s life than a severe stroke; and

- schizophrenia can have a greater impact on someone’s life than an untreated spinal chord lesion/injury.

Whilst it is a requirement for many organisations to have a first aid box and people trained as first aiders, in order to deal with any physical-health emergencies that arise…are workplaces equipped properly to deal with mental health emergencies?

At byrne dean, we run mental health first aid training to give organisations the skills and tools that they need to support those with mental illness. We run a structured two day course, licensed by Mental Health First Aid for England, to train specialised workplace mental health first aiders. Our next course will be run between Thursday 28th to Friday 29th June. The training will be held at Charles Russell Speechlys, 5 Fleet Pl, London EC4M 7RD. Please email us (uxshely.chotai@byrnedean.com) if you are interested in booking a place on this course.

Out of sight – but we must keep it in mind – we need to start creating a culture in which people are able to talk about their thoughts, mental well-being and how they are feeling, all of the time.