Since my time on the South Bank last week, I’ve been thinking – Why should a company bother to train employees in mental health, and mental health first aid in particular?

There’s an excellent report and toolkit from Business in the Community (BITC) published in February this year with Mind. Among other things it recommends that:

employers offer mental health first-aid training to managers to help break the culture of silence surrounding mental ill-health.’

The ‘culture of silence!’ How can you quantify the benefits to the business of breaking that silence? Perhaps you don’t have to. Most employers recognize the benefits of demonstrating Corporate Social Responsibility, for instance, demonstrating to their investors, their stakeholders that they value caring for their employees. (Apart that is from those like Sports Direct!)

If only I felt confident to speak up at work, to have my own published books on my desk (Fast Train Approaching… and Voices), to be willing to answer personal questions. Perhaps then I could really help break the stigma, liberate a new voice, one of deeper trust, of our unity as human beings.

Could mental health first aid really help to prevent suicide, or psychosis? Apparently so, (visit Mental Health First Aid England). But it would serve us well not to conflate mental Ill health with violence, for instance. Violence is committed in the main by people who are otherwise perfectly sane. Not mad.

This week, Pope Francis has visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, entering through the arch of the gates of Auschwitz beneath the words arbeit macht frei, ‘work sets you free’.

After arriving at the museum and memorial to the 1.1 million people killed there, he sat alone on a bench for several minutes of contemplation and prayer. He’d said he wanted his visit – the third by a pope – to be conducted in silence. “I would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds…alone, enter, pray. And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.” His only public words were written in the Auschwitz guest book: “Lord, have pity on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”

After signing the visitors’ book, Francis went to Birkenau, an adjacent camp, where he was to meet more former inmates and people who helped to save Jews. Psalm 130 – “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord” – was recited by a rabbi in Hebrew.

Earlier we heard that Hillary Clinton was booed at the democratic national convention. Unbelievable, surely this must have been by only a minority of hecklers. Do they not realise the sense of impending doom conjured up by the prospect of Trump being elected? At the same convention, powerful, moving words from Michelle Obama.

Now to the important things in life: branded beer glasses! Consider Peroni, Moretti, Amstel, Kronenbourg to name but a few…sipping in sunshine by the pool, or the sea, or reflecting in the local. Chilling with your favourite. Sadly, and I use the word advisedly, one of our local pubs is scrapping them because the brewery charge the landlord £2 each, for a pint Moretti glass, (while they retail for almost twice that). Imagine drinking the same coloured liquor, from bland, plain glasses…what is the world coming to…?



Blog – Friday 29th July 2016