AWARENESS of mental health has greatly increased in recent times - and now staff at one Dorchester firm have received formal training in how to recognise and deal with mental health issues.

Sixty-five employees of Poundbury-based RiskSTOP Group received the half-day ''Mental Health Aware' course, delivered by Mental Health First Aid England.

According to RiskSTOP, which is headquartered at Mey House, the course is designed to give an understanding of mental health and how to challenge stigma surrounding it. Participants are taught to look after their own mental health, and how to interact with those who may be suffering mental ill-health.

Following what a company spokesman described as the 'incredible success' of the half-day course in February last year, three RiskSTOP employees went on to undertake a further two-day course in June to become Mental Health First Aiders.

This course enabled the three employees - namely Sarah Boyland, Lisa Beaton and HR chief Natalie Joyce - to gain a deeper understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing, as well as imbuing them with greater confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress, and more detailed knowledge of what further steps for treatment are available.

RiskSTOP's Ms Joyce said: “I am incredibly proud to work for an employer that places so much emphasis on its employees’ health and wellbeing. I would like to see Mental Health Awareness Training to be as common place as First Aid Training.”

MHFA England recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and has now trained over 220,000 people. Peter Larkum has been an instructor since 2010 and said: 'It's brilliant when you work with a company like RiskSTOP which has decided to tackle Mental Health in the workplace by raising awareness throughout the staff with the Mental Health Aware course, as well as training Mental Health First Aiders with the two-day course."