A CHAMPION of improving mental health in the workplace in Swindon is stepping down after 11 years.

David Latham, the lead of the Swindon Mindful Employer Network, announced he will go into retirement after heading the initiative since February 2008.

The network asks business to to sign up to attend regular meetings on mental health issues and hosts conferences on the benefits of improving mental health in the work place.

David told the Adver: "It started out with just a few of us in Old Town.

"It wasn't easy at first, it was quite difficult to talk about back then and it was a real struggle to get it started. But we have been surprised at the growth in interest and attendance over the last 11 years.

"We've had quite a few messages from businesses saying how much they have improved and changed.

"I have been very moved by the responses I've got.

"I do believe we have made a change, there's still a way to go - it will take decades before it comes to fruition.

"But I think mental health in the work place has been advanced, we're very progressive, and I think Swindon is a good place to work and live in."

David paid special thanks to the volunteers, its chair Melanie Richens, and the businesses who have joined the network over the last 11 years.he added.

"We are all impacted by mental health issues," he added. "We all see it or have seen friends that have been ill or colleagues that have been off.

"It's that importance of dealing with the prejudice of mental health that we have tried to put to the fore.

"It's also about mental wellness and resilience and about building a mentally strong work force.

"I think that's where we attracted a lot of interest from business."

The network would put on regular events on difficult subjects such as suicide and issues around bereavement.

He added: "We were so surprised with the numbers, these very difficult subjects which I thought would be of a minority interest but actually gained a lot of interest from employers.

"I think employers are taking some time to absorb and gather some awareness, there's a hunger out there now to learn more about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace."

David will leave his role on February 4 to go into retirement where he says he will enjoy more walking and hopes to volunteer in the charity sector.