Stephens Scown is encouraging its staff to start the conversation about mental ill health following a series of presentations by TEDxExeter speaker Gill Hayes, who survived a suicide attempt in 2013.

Stephens Scown is one of the sponsors of TEDxExeter and after seeing Gill’s powerful talk, the firm’s HR Manager for Devon Emily Ottery asked Gill to visit the firm’s three offices in Devon and Cornwall to talk about her experiences.

Gill was living in Exeter when she began suffering from severe depression. She attempted suicide in March 2013 and following a long physical and mental recovery process, is passionate about sharing her story to help others who are struggling with mental ill health.

Each year one in four people will be affected by a mental health problem. An average of 17 people take their own lives every day in the UK and it is the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34. For men it is the biggest cause of death for the under 50s.

Emily Ottery, Stephens Scown’s HR Manager for Devon said: “We want to break down any stigma around mental ill health, and get people talking about it. That is why we were so pleased that Gill agreed to do some talks for us. Her story is a powerful reminder to look out for early signs of mental ill health in yourself and others. We have felt the impact of her talks already, with colleagues speaking to each other about their own experiences.”

Gill Hayes added: “Not talking about what I was experiencing cost me dear. It almost cost me my life. That is why we need to start the conversation about mental health. You can’t always tell if someone is suffering. The only way to find out is to ask. And to get an honest answer, you need to create the right environment where people feel safe opening up. I’m so encouraged that local employers like Stephens Scown are taking this issue seriously.”

Stephens Scown LLP, which is ranked at number 16 in the prestigious Sunday Times 100 Best Medium Sized Companies to Work For list, is also taking part in the Mindful Employer initiative and has signed the Charter for Employers who are Positive About Mental Health.