• The Centre for Inclusive Leadership

All Present – But Is That Correct?


What does it mean to talk about ill mental health in your organisation? Let’s be honest, in most businesses this is not a pleasant experience; and yet the lived reality is that for most organisations more and more employees are coming to work while unwell particularly with matters related to mental health. Industry has long been concerned with absenteeism but the facts show that more disquietingly the bigger problem is Presenteeism.

Presenteeism – is a word we use to describe employees being at work but not being fully mentally present and engaged due to an illness, extreme family or life pressures which would justify an absence. Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism isn’t always apparent: You know when someone doesn’t show up for work, but you often can’t tell when—or how someone’s performance is being undermined. Outwardly they look fine – but of course, people don’t see how they feel; and sadly, people don’t always (seldom) feel able to talk about it, and quite honestly sometimes we don’t know how to deal with ‘it’ when people do talk.

We know that 1 in 4 people will suffer from ill mental health during their lifetime. That 1 in 4 are just as affected by the phenomenon of presenteeism as anyone else. Our mission at the Centre for Inclusive Leadership (TCfIL) is to create environments in which people can be their best selves and do their best work. Well, what does that mean? It means supporting organisations to create a culture where people can say “Let’s talk about it” and to talk about it safely and openly.

We don’t claim to be experts in mental health but what we are experts in is inclusive leadership and creating inclusive cultures within workplaces.

To that end we have partnered with Fount Productions to enable organisations to have the conversation about ill mental health, presenteeism and inclusive culture in the workplace through a piece of interactive theatre called Cancel the Sunshine.

Cancel the Sunshine is a stage play written by Chantelle Dusette, exploring her relationship with her own ill mental health, which began when she was eleven-years old. The autobiographical tale that takes the audience on a journey of what it can be like for someone dealing with mental health issues, namely depression and anxiety.

The story, set in London, examines navigating, and indeed, self-medicating, mental illness, whilst working and living a routine existence, set against the vibrant, fast paced, and sometimes hostile backdrop of London. The story also shines a light on the relationship that society now has with social media, and how that can impact our personal relationships.

What they said about Cancel the Sunshine…

“A fantastically thought out piece … genuine, angry, passionate and heartfelt from beginning to end.” – London Love Culture
“This is an incredible piece of theatre and sure packs a punch for its one-hour length.” – Those London Chicks
“Unmissable.” – ActDrop
“Viscerally brutal – but in the best possible way. Hugely recommended.” – There Ought to be Clowns

Having enjoyed a successful and extended run at Islington’s Hope Theatre, TCfIL commissioned the writer, Chantelle Dusette to adapt the piece to enable it to work as a piece of interactive industrial theatre.

We have created a conversation based on the play called “Let’s talk about it” which takes the following format:

  • Audience view the play (run time 52 minutes)

  • Intermission/discussion groups (20 minutes)

  • Facilitated panel discussion with invited guests including, Chantelle Dusette, a clinical practitioner and a representative from the host organisation (45 minutes)

  • Sign posting services and Close (Host) 5 minutes)

We have run the programme in a number of settings, including Upstairs at Ronnie’s and a variety of NHS Trusts including Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

If you would like to find out more or book a performance, please contact: nosheen@thecentreforinclusiveleadership.com or call +44(0)7586 718087

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