FIFTY businesses representing a combined workforce of more than 11,500 employees attended a special training event in Newbury last week, designed to help employers identify signs of stress that could, in some circumstances, lead to suicide.
A total of 60 representatives from local organisations, large and small, attended the free event arranged by the West Berkshire Suicide Prevention Action Group, at Shaw House last Wednesday.
Volunteer Centre West Berkshire director Garry Poulson said the training session had been a success as the group look to make the mental health of employees a more approachable subject for business bosses.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Poulson said it was fundamental that employers are able to recognise and take action when their staff are affected by mental health issues.
He said: “It is so important that bosses and line managers are able to say we can start a conversation with someone and spot the signs and offer support.
“We are just starting up and we want to be able to give people the fundamental knowledge to say it’s okay to talk about suicide and even go so far as to say if they’ve thought about it, how they would do it and so on – all the research says it’s better to do that.
“We have set out to dispel the myths about suicide and remove the stigma.”
The training session, which involved working with organisations such as the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, employed a range of learning methods including role play to help employers better recognise the signs of mental health issues.
Andrew Watts of Newbury-based Apple Print and Creative said the event was a real “eye-opener”.
“It would really make me think twice about how I approach situations at work,” he said.
“The figures of people affected by this issue really surprised me.
“With four times as many people killed by suicide than on our roads you’d think we would hear more about mental illness and the problems. I really hope we can see more of this kind of conference and involve more and more business.”
Mr Poulson said the suicide prevention action group and local charities are now working with the authorities in West Berkshire to achieve a zero suicide rate in the district.
Following positive feedback on the event, Mr Poulson said the group will look to arrange further seminars and training sessions in the future.
“We had a great response,” said Mr Poulson. “One business from the racing industry said the training was so good they are now going back to the racing body to request that what we did be made mandatory in the racing industry.”
He added: “We want to bring about a cultural change as we aspire to actually achieving a zero suicide rate, because actually, suicides are preventable.
“We can create a culture where it doesn’t occur to people because there are other solutions – where people are spotting their stress and there are people there to talk to and to offer the right support.”
Anyone wishing to find out more about the work of the West Berkshire Suicide Prevention Action Group can contact Mr Poulson on email@example.com
Or for information or support regarding suicide contact Samaritans on 116 123.