Published 12 October 2018

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A special conference has been held in Kent highlighting how taking care of mental wellbeing can have positive effects on both health and productivity.

This World Mental Health Day (10 October), the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Kent County Council joined forces to invite businesses to a conference looking at mental health in the workplace.

FSB Kent Area Leader Deborah Turner said:

'With one in four of us expected to suffer some form of mental illness, we want to encourage the conversation about wellbeing amongst Kent’s 140,000 small businesses. Business owners present with all the same issues and illnesses as the rest of the population but the difference is that we may have less time to deal with them, which in turn means things can quickly escalate.

'It can be those who seem to be the most robust or who are putting on the best front that actually need the most support. This conference will show where and how we can get that help and support.'

Kent County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, Diane Marsh, spoke of her personal experience of suicide:

'My father took his own life when I was 19 and it was normal for our family to grieve in silence so we bottled up our emotions, probably much as my dad did. My son tried to take his own life last year and I was away in Spain at the time so I urged to call the helpline as part of the KCC Release the Pressure campaign. I’m pleased to say that he did and he is now expecting the arrival of his second child.

'I feel it is my job to use my voice to help other people and KCC is listening – we commission Live Well Kent which offers community mental health support, we co-ordinate the multi-agency suicide prevention strategy, we’ve signed the Time to Change pledge and we have done amazing things with the Release the Pressure campaign. We are pleased to be sharing experiences with others on World Mental Health Day and look forward to working further together in reducing stigma in the workplace, supporting people with mental health issues and reducing the number of suicides.'

The event also heard about the importance of being active from Dame Kelly Holmes and from British Olympic Athlete Jack Green who spoke about his experience of depression.

Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott said:

'Mental health and wellbeing is everyone’s business and I’m really pleased to be working with Kent and Medway’s small businesses to improve the support we offer and raise awareness of the help that is available. There are many issues we need to address, such as stress, anxiety, depression, isolation and other conditions and it is good to be able to come together to listen and learn.'

KCC Public Health Consultant Jess Mookherjee added:

'Given Kent’s higher than average rates of suicide, we want to work extensively with partners across the county to tackle and improve mental wellbeing, and workplaces and employers are important as each life lost is a tragedy. We welcome this opportunity to work with Kent’s businesses by enabling them to find and use the tools available to keep their staff safe and healthy. This event will showcase the huge range of services available in Kent and our role in keeping workers in small businesses healthy.'