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The University of Southampton
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

An elephant in the Arlott Room

Published: 21 July 2015
Elephant (courtesy SUSU)

"The elephant in the room" classically refers to any difficult situation that people would prefer to ignore rather than talk about. For some of us, that elephant is mental health.

In the year to 30 June 2015, 19% of sickness absence days among University staff were recorded as being due to stress, depression or anxiety. Some others may feel the long-standing stigma of mental illness, and have signed themselves off instead with flu or stomach ache. 

Recently SUSU took delivery of a five-foot high fibreglass elephant, which will tour our campuses over the next academic year, both "in the room" and outdoors. The symbolic model serves as a talking point, encouraging students and staff to be more open about their own mental health, and equally to feel more confident about opening discussions with colleagues and friends.

During the staff party in the afternoon of Friday 24 July, the elephant will be in the Staff Social Centre's Arlott Room, loaded with a supply of leaflets and booklets to take away. Whether or not you are a party-goer, members of the Wellbeing Taskforce will also be on hand to answer general questions and to point you to the support you may find useful in future.


  • Time to Change (Twitter #TimeToTalk) highlighting simple, everyday ways you can support someone who has a mental health problem.
  • Mindful Employer downloadable booklets, including Keeping Well at Work (for all staff) and Line Managers' Resource.  (Click on the title in the grey hyperlink box. You would need to pay only for the pre-printed version.)
  • Enabling Services: student-oriented but with universal advice about, for example, looking after yourself, and common mental health problems.
  • HR website: Mental Health

You can also find an A4 resources sheet to download below. We hope to have more information available online later in the year. Meanwhile, you don't have to be an expert to talk about mental health. See the video featuring Dame Kelly Holmes doing just this.

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