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Thursday 10th October: World Mental Health Day 2019

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The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is suicide prevention.

Thursday 10th October 2019 was World Mental Health Day, and this year the focus is on suicide prevention. Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide; close to 800,000 people globally die by suicide every year.

It’s not an easy subject to talk about. Whether as a theoretical discussion, an awareness raising activity, you are worried about someone in your life, or someone is considering suicide personally, starting the conversation with anyone about this subject remains taboo and incredibly difficult. Often this is because people are worried about how others will react, or because it is difficult to know what to say.

We’ve been heavily focused on mental health and workplace wellbeing here at Eton Bridge Partners for the last few years, both from an internal and external perspective and I like to think that we have done a lot as a business to break down the stigma and isolation felt by anyone living with a mental health condition. This week we will be talking specifically about suicide, and trying to raise awareness not only of risk factors, but also of how to support someone who feels suicidal. We will be wearing our green ribbons, showing our commitment to the campaign to raise awareness and also hopefully to show someone who might be struggling that there are people willing to listen, helping to begin much-needed conversations and let people know they are not alone.

For me, the most powerful message in this year’s campaign is that suicide is preventable. That is, in my view, quite a difficult idea to comprehend, particularly if you have been bereaved by suicide or had a close friend or family member attempt suicide. In a workplace environment, the impact of suicide or a suicide attempt on a team or a business can also be deep and long-lasting.

The rate of suicides in Britain has risen sharply in recent years, with men accounting for three-quarters of the number of people who took their own lives last year. There are some notably high-risk groups, in young people aged 10-24 years, with the overall rate for that age group reaching a 19 year high and the rate for young females reaching an all-time high. As a parent of three young children, this is alarming, and for the workplace it surely places renewed emphasis on the importance of healthy work practices as we look to prepare and attract a future workforce.

I agree with the Mental Health Foundation’s view that prevention should happen long before people end up in crisis, and the workplace is a key part of this, along with schools, community groups and social service provision. They also remind us as part of their campaign that we can all, individually, help to reduce suicide rates and prevent suicides, by taking the time to have a conversation with those around us.

Today we are holding a ‘Tea & Talk’ at our Windsor and London offices, not only will we be raising money for the Mental Health Foundation, we will also be strengthening the bonds we have as a team, reminding our people that they are surrounded by colleagues who care about them.  I’d encourage you to take a few minutes today and make a connection with someone you are worried about and let them know you are there and willing to listen, whether that is at home or work.

Friendships are also a crucial element in protecting our mental health and are among the most valuable relationships we have.  We may talk to friends in confidence about things we wouldn’t normally discuss with our family.  Friends keep us grounded and can help us get things in perspective.  Putting effort into maintaining friendships and making new friends gives us the foundations to cope with problems that life throws at us. I’m honoured to count my work colleagues as friends and will be focused on strengthening these relationships this week.

Mental Health is unique in the sense that a conversation can save a life. We can all help to create a world with good mental health for all.