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.

Organisations are being urged to highlight the work they are doing to address mental health stigma in the workplace.

Dan Willis is an ambassador for Dorset Mind and founded Well Good, which uses apps to alert people to symptoms of poor mental health before they reach a crisis.

“When you start looking after your staff, It does have a big effect on how well your business is doing,” he said.

“For every pound you invest in the mental wellbeing of your staff, businesses tend to see a £9 return on their performance. And you find that by looking after yourself, you’ll be able to help support the growth of your business.

“It’s amazing how many people approach me after I speak or go into business. They thank me and open up about their own mental health problems,” he added.

Paula Thompson, a Bournemouth-based stress management and mental wellness coach, said the clients who hosted her workshops and coaching were “mainly businesses who have understood the importance of the humanised assistance I provide”.

But she added: “I come across many companies, or should I say company owners or senior management, who just don't get the importance of looking after their staff with their mental health.”

Erin Woods, charity manager at Merlin’s Magic Wand – the children’s charity established by Poole’s theme park giant Merlin Entertainments – said: “At Merlin Entertainments we made Wellbeing and Mental Health the focus of our annual Safety Week initiative earlier in the year, we have some Mental Health First Aiders appointed within the business and we are also a member of the Business Disability Forum - this is an excellent resource for line managers who have team members that need additional support.”

Matt Desmier, of the Poole-based brand consultancy Wise Old Uncle, said: “Independent workers, freelancers and those working in the so-called gig economy is the fastest growing workforce in the UK and no one is looking out for their mental health. In a recent survey, 45 per cent of independent workers said that poor mental health had adversely affected their ability to work. Who is there to support them?”

Anthony Story, director of Silicon South – the agency that supports Dorset's digital sector – said: "I had what you might call a chequered relationship with mental health in my 20s. A lot of that was to do with working in a creative and perhaps over-imaginative discipline – but frequently on my own. 

“Poor mental health can also be a strong driver of creativity although, ultimately, it will probably catch up with you in the end.”

Justin Cohen, who handles marketing for the marine electronics company Actisense in Poole, said: “Our senior leadership team have recently rolled out an incredible Employee Assistance Program, which gives us free 24/7, 365 access to trained counsellors to help advise on a whole range of issues that may cause staff members anxiety in the workplace and in the home too – all completely anonymously. The logic is simple: Happy team, build the dream.”

Christie Collins, senior marketing executive with Bournemouth marketing business CuCo Creative, said she previously had experience of “really struggling with my confidence” in a high pressure job.

“My career path has now brought me to CuCo where my managing directors promote a a positive working environment daily – whether it's asking how your weekend was, bringing in a cake for the team or just grabbing five minutes to discuss how you are, those small gestures make a huge difference,” she said.

"You don't have to work as part of a big organisation with an HR team to feel looked out for.  I've had experience in both big and small organisations."

Beth Price, marketing manager at Bournemouth IT provider QuoStar, said: "Earlier this year, I found myself struggling with anxiety and depression. When my doctor said I needed to spend time away from work, I was really nervous to have that conversation with my boss but QuoStar couldn’t have been more supportive. I was given the time and flexibility I needed to get better, along with support to find a counsellor who could help me.

“After a short time off, I returned to the office feeling much better and in a stronger place mentally, allowing me to work at full capacity and deliver for the business.”

The company’s chief executive, Rob Rutherford, said: “As a business, we’ve been taking a lot of steps to support our staff, both mentally and physically. We’ve implemented things like an employee assistance programme, giving staff access to a 24/7 helpline, virtual GP and telephone/face-to-face counselling among other things, an employee charter and a health insurance plan. This is alongside smaller well-being initiatives like healthier food and drink options, wellbeing training sessions and a visit from a massage therapist.”

Ursula Boardman, training and development manager at the Bournemouth-based caterer Crumbs Project, said it had signed up with the NHS’s Mindful Employer initiative, which provides a confidential staff helpline and a managerial advice line.

Kate Lawrence, marketing and events executive at Dorset’s Coles Miller Solicitors, said: “At least four employees at Coles Miler are mental health first aid trained, which I believe is so important.”

Natalia DaCosta is a local director of the Athena Network, which provides training and support for women in business.

She pointed to statistics showing that women are particularly exposed to factors that increase the risk of poor mental health. 

She said: “There are so many amazing women in business out there. And yet so many feel isolated. I know that because I once did too. The fact I’ve been there is one of the many reasons I became an Athena regional director. I want to be the facilitator that can bring women together and support them to ensure they continue to grow.”

She added: “I am excited that the launch of the Ferndown Athena Network group on October 15 will enable me to bring that supportive network to another group of successful women in business in Dorset.”

  • The Leapers online community of independent workers was organising a global Work Together this morning at Bournemouth’s Urban Gardens. Details are at