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Naming the elephant in the room

Four years ago, I named what was the biggest Elephant in the room for me at the time, which was that I’d been struggling with my mental health since shutting down my last business. 

It was my Elephant and it was a big elephant in the startup ecosystem too, impacting founders, early employees and investors alike.

I named it, I spoke about it and along with many others we have slowly uncovered the Elephant in the room to the point where talking about mental health is far more normal in the startup ecosystem. 

Over the course of four years, Elephants have been unveiled everywhere in all different industries. PR, advertising, construction, banking, events and more. There are Elephants in every room, in every industry and every workplace.

They’ve started to be named, to be talked about and addressed. We can all breathe a sigh of relief when someone names that big bloody Elephant we’ve all been sitting next to for a long time. 

Mental health in the workplace has been a massive Elephant in the room for a long time and it still remains to be, yet when it’s named, when it’s talked about we give ourselves a big chance to do something about it. 

In my experience, talking about my mental health and more generally just saying what I am feeling and naming the Elephant in the room has been transformational.

It makes life and business a lot easier, and now I physically can’t stand it when there’s a big Elephant there and nobody is saying anything about it. I get really on edge because I can see it so clearly. 

There are many instances where there are Elephants in the room and it doesn’t have to just be about mental health. For example, money is often an Elephant in the room that nobody is talking about. 

This is just a colloquial term for being honest, aware and naming what exists in a relationship or culture that may not be being spoken about. From what I’ve seen when we don’t talk about something it creates shame, fear and  judgement – we get scared that if we are to mention “it” something bad will happen.

Or, we feel ashamed for even feeling or thinking about the thing in general, because it is “bad”.

With mental health, it often takes a first-mover, someone brave who is willing to just say it how it is and say how they have been feeling or to point to the big THING that is right there that is affecting everyone, but nobody is saying it. 

Being honest and naming some tension or friction or something difficult is brave and hard to do, yet when it’s done it always seems to ground people and make people feel much relieved. Everyone seems to soften a little as they don’t have to hide. 

This was my experience when I first started speaking openly about my mental health, I felt so relieved, like a huge weight off my shoulders.

While speaking openly didn’t heal what I was going through immediately, it was the first step and without taking that first step there is no way I would have gone on the journey change and growth within my mental health that I went on afterward. 

In conclusion, when it comes to mental health and mental health in the workplace – say it, name it, be brave and be honest.

It’s hard and it takes courage, yet it’s the first step towards change and a different way of being. You can name the elephant in the room to a manager, to a colleague, to a friend, to HR or to whoever feels most right and most able to listen, it’s the best way to start. 

Let’s name those Elephants.