'Every life lost to suicide is one too many': Leeds firm urges businesses to put workplace wellbeing at top of agenda after loss of colleague

A Leeds boss has opened up about his firm’s experience of losing a colleague to suicide in the hope of encouraging other businesses to put workplace wellbeing high on their agendas.

By Joanna Wardill
Monday, 18th April 2022, 4:30 pm

Transport infrastructure company Colas, which has its regional office on Landmark Court, Elland Road, hopes to drive a culture change around mental health conversations in male-dominated industries after a former employee took his own life towards the end of 2021.

Adam McCormick, regional contracts manager for Colas said: “This person was very close to a lot of us, and this impacted a number of people here.”

He said: “Every life lost to suicide is one too many, so we’re doing what we can to encourage other employers in our region to put mental wellbeing at the top of their agendas.

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“Having experienced how devastating a loss to suicide can be, it’s really important to our team that we are supporting our workforce, local community and local supply chain to create a like-minded approach to mental health.”

Colas had already started its work in improving mental wellbeing at work in early 2021, due to the pandemic.

And following the loss of their colleague, they also reached out to local mental health charity, Leeds Mind, who supported the development of a mental health strategy.

Employees at Colas, which now plays an active role in the Leeds Mindful Employer Network.

Colas now plays an active role in the charity’s Leeds Mindful Employer Network, which aims to make Leeds one of the leading cities for workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Adam, whose team also benefited from Leeds Mind’s suicide bereavement services, said: “With the help of the Leeds Mindful Employer Network, we get the support from peers that we need to improve our conversations around mental health.”

Set up in 2013, the network aims to bring local employers together to champion positive mental health at work - and is unique to Leeds.

It is commissioned by Leeds City Council Public Health and led by Leeds Mind in partnership with local employers.

Project co-ordinator Laura McCullagh said: “The team at Colas has done incredible work to improve their mental health and wellbeing culture – especially given that they were affected by the loss of a colleague.

“Mental health at work is a growing issue, particularly after the difficult few years we’ve all endured. It’s been estimated that around 10 million people will need new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the pandemic.

“When you think about how much time we all spend at work and with our workmates, it’s a prime opportunity to check in about someone’s wellbeing.

“Our membership currently includes over 500 local employers and business owners. Given the current climate, we really want to reach businesses whose staff are facing ongoing mental health challenges linked to COVID-19, as well as those who are most likely to experience financial hardship due to the current cost of living crisis.

“We’re particularly keen to support the city’s smallest businesses; those that might not have as much resource to put to staff wellbeing and would really benefit from accessing the free expertise and support of the network.

“There are so many things you can do to support the wellbeing of your staff and colleagues. Sometimes it’s the simplest things, like asking people how they are feeling and being able to signpost them to local support that can have the biggest impact. We can help you feel confident that you’re doing what you can.

“I’d encourage everyone who works in Leeds to think about how the Leeds Mindful Employer Network could help you. Putting mental health on the agenda at work can literally be lifesaving.”

To find out more about the Leeds Mindful Employer network, please visit www.leedsmind.org.uk/mindful-employer or email [email protected]