One of the largest employer led networks in Swindon is about to celebrate 10 years of success promoting mental health awareness in the local business community.

The Swindon Mindful Employer Network was formed in the summer of 2008 with twelve employer representatives meeting at the Kings Hotel in Wood Street.

It went on to officially launch at the Swindon Marriott in March 2009 when nearly 80 people attended with guest speakers organisational phsycologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper and the inspirational Lynne Copp. Today it is quite common for the network to attract over 150 delegates to their regular sessions, courses and conferences which are in demand by large and small businesses of all sectors situated in and around the town.

David Latham, who has managed the project from the beginning, says it has a lot to do with the enthusiaiasm of volunteers and partner organisations who feel mental health is such an important area for businesses.

“Most of our activities are strongly supported by local people and businesses. Without top hotels and venues offering to host an event it would be impossible to have advanced this initiative over the last 10 years – we are grateful for the tremendous help from all our supporters.”

Melanie Richens, has attended the network sessions from day one, and became Chair in 2009 until today.

“The interest around the subject of mental health is huge and we struggle with the numbers attending sometimes. We have also identified themes which are attractive to employers such as resilience, leadership, positive workplace cultures and reducing stress, anxiety and depression. But we have also tackled some very difficult issues such as domestic violience, asperger syndrome, bereavement and suicide – and these have also been well attended. Praise must also be given to Public Health in Swindon for their steadfast support for this work.”

Throughout its 10 years of growth, the Swindon Mindful Employer Network has received financial support from Public Health in Swindon. Frances Mayes of Public Health at Swindon Borough Council, was one of architects of the local initiative and had responsibility for securing the essential funding to keep the activity thriving.

“A lot of the success is down to the quality of the speakers and the events planning. We have heard some amazing talks from top speakers and experts, many of whom gave of their time freely. The Swindon media have also strongly supported our efforts and increasingly we have noticed business people recommending attendance to their colleagues, customers and associates – particularly through other networks and social media. The feedback from business delegates has been very appreciative.”

Mindful Employer in the UK started in Exeter in 2004 and the Swindon network is one of the largest in the country. Richard Frost who leads Mindful Employer nationally and internationally has praise for the local initiative: “ We have been delighted by the expansion and popularity of the Swindon network and it is a testament to the hard work of the local stakeholders and volunteers. In terms of mental health networks for employers – Swindon is certainly one obvious example of best practice in the UK.”

Mike Godfrey, network deputy Chair in Swindon and Chairman of the Swindon Initiative at Business West, senses that mental health issues in the workplace will gain considerably more interest from businesses.

“We are only starting to address the challenges of mental health and wellbeing at work but there is a long way to go yet before every organisation realises the benefits of mental wellness and positive management cultures. I ask managers and business owners to look again at the heavy cost of ignoring employee wellbeing – start by taking a peek at your sickness absence.”

Celebrating its 10 years of service, the group will hold several special events culminating in a conference in October at the Swindon Marriott. Local business people and VIPs are encouraged to attend these busy sessions.

John Gilbert, Chief Executive of Swindon Borough Council, acknowledges the contribution of the network to the life of town: “With a powerful emphasis on workplace culture and mental wellbeing, I have observed the impressive growth of Swindon Mindful Employer over the last 10 years into one of the largest business networks in the town. The importance of Mental Health in the workplace can never be understated and this reflects well on Swindon as a great place to live and work. I am very pleased to offer my enthusiastic support for this initiative and wish Melanie Richens and Dave Latham and their professional team of volunteers and business supporters many more years of success.”

This Swindon network is funded by Public Health at Swindon Borough Council.

Places for this event are available for representatives of employers in the Swindon and surrounding area only. Booking is essential.

For more information about this event please contact: