Seven of the UK’s leading retailers are launching an online guide in partnership with charity Samaritans to help 2.9 million people working in retail for World Mental Health Day.

John Lewis Partnership, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASOS, the Co-op, M&S and Next worked with Samaritans to develop the guide to support the mental health and wellbeing of workers.

John Lewis Partnership, M&S, the Co-op and Next surveyed 2,000 retail workers and found that 50% stated they could not identify the signs of someone needing emotional support and 25% said they would not feel comfortable talking to an upset colleague.

The new online training guide provides tools for workers to use on their computer, phone or tablet, including breathing techniques, mental health films and case studies.

Sir Cary Cooper CBE, who specialises in organisational psychology and health and is supporting the guide’s launch, said: “We spend a third of our lives at work, so it’s inevitable that it can impact our overall health and wellbeing. In my opinion, you can never provide enough mental health support at work so I welcome the launch of this guide as it could benefit so many retail workers.”

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “Mental health issues can affect us all – and stigmas and barriers that once prevented people talking about the issues are starting to erode. The world of work and retail, in particular, is fast-paced and constantly changing and we want employees to feel supported. I hope this guide is a stepping stone to creating further conversations on mental health and gives workers the confidence to use it when they may need it.”

Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sunderland said: “It’s so encouraging to see retailers come together like this for the first time in the interest of improving their staff’s mental health. Over recent years, we have seen a real step-change in the attitudes and behaviours of employers as they actively seek to address how they can improve wellbeing in the workplace and we are proud to be part of making this transition happen.”

World Mental Health Day takes place on 10 October to promote global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.