BUSINESSES are being urged to think about the mental wellbeing of their staff on World Mental Health Day today.

The annual global initiative has the theme of suicide and suicide prevention as its focus this year.

Suicide claims nearly 800,000 lives a year worldwide and is the leading cause of death in the 18-34 age group in the UK.

Organisations are being urged to highlight the work they are doing to address mental health stigma in the workplace and encourage good mental health among their staff.

Tim Walker, managing director of Southampton IT provider Aura Technology, said: “I’m a firm believer that in businesses that play as a team and achieve as a team, employees feel engaged and supported, morale is higher and avoidable absenteeism is lower.

“At Aura Technology we put this into action by encouraging wellness. We provide healthy office snacks for employees, encourage ‘walk and talk’ meetings out of the office, have standing desks available and offer flexible work hours and remote working as much as possible.

“A huge benefit of technology is that we can have employees working from home or from anywhere – but it’s important that they still feel part of the team. For those who are mainly remote workers, we programme in monthly face-to-face meetings and keep in touch using video chat on Microsoft Teams. Above all, people relate to people, and no matter how busy we are, we keep that at the heart of everything we do.”

Southampton planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore has a programme called Our People, which focuses on investing in its staff and culture.

Partner Robin Shepherd said: “In our aspiration to be an employer of choice in our field, it’s important to us to support and treat people with kindness and compassion – for example when they experience ill health or personal or work-related issues.

“The intention is for us to focus on promoting a working environment where health and wellbeing are at the fore, recognising that work is only one part of our lives, and a culture where our people feel safe, comfortable and supported in raising matters of concern.”

It has a health, wellbeing and support working group, an employee assistance programme and a wellbeing survey. It has committed to introducing mental health first aiders and wellbeing champions, as well as creating support networks for those going through similar work, life or health issues.

Southampton law firm Paris Smith is a finalist for a Solent Business Award for its work on mental health and wellbeing.

It has organised workshops with the Eleos Partnership – a company formed by ex-service people who draw on their own experiences of recovery from mental health problems. The firm held its first Wellbeing Week this year, covering physical health, nutrition, work-life balance, health checks, and financial wellbeing.

Its HR director, Paula Al-Yousif, who has been leading the initiatives, said: “Mental health and wellbeing is very close to the hearts of many people within our business; we want to openly recognise this and create a culture where people feel they can talk openly and feel supported. We already had existing mental health support in place together with wellbeing benefits and initiatives. However, we wanted to implement more creative ways to bring people together, provide information and have some fun along the way.”