Christmas and the New Year can be stressful for many of us, but the festive period can often be especially isolating or overwhelming for the one in five Londoners who experience a common mental health problem during any given week.
At this time of year, it’s crucial that we all think about how best to look after our mental health and wellbeing – and how to manage the aspects of Christmas that can cause the most stress, such as socialising and excessive drinking.
It’s particularly important to recognise the signs of poor mental health in yourself and in your friends and family. Symptoms of mental ill health can vary and detecting it isn’t always straightforward. However, the mental health charity Mind offers excellent resources on how to identify symptoms and offer support.
As a first step, London boroughs are encouraging their residents to have open and honest conversations about mental health issues. The NHS approved digital service Good Thinking, which is jointly funded by the boroughs and the health service, provides free access to proactive wellbeing tools that are personalised to people’s needs and helps address common mental health concerns.
If you’re worried about your own or a friend’s mental health, it’s important to seek professional help via a GP. Families and friends can be important advocates to help their loved one find out what treatment is best for them, let professionals know what’s going on and fill in parts of the picture that the person who is struggling might not be well enough to describe on their own.
We know that some Londoners will struggle with self-harm and suicidal feelings over the festive period. For anyone finding it difficult to cope, the Samaritans can be phoned 24/7, 365 days a year, on 116 123.
London boroughs are also keen to raise awareness of suicide as a major public health issue we need to tackle together. It is one of the biggest causes of preventable death, especially among young Londoners.
Alongside the Mayor of London and our health partners in Thrive LDN, a citywide movement I co-lead which aims to improve mental health and wellbeing, boroughs are directing Londoners to free online training from the Zero Suicide Alliance, showing what to do if someone you know is in crisis. I have taken part, as have more than 35,000 Londoners who have already undertaken the training since it was launched in April.
The last decade has seen fast-growing awareness and openness about mental health. While there are clearly huge challenges to overcome, there’s also a lot of progress to celebrate, with fantastic work being undertaken by passionate mental health professionals and community groups across the capital.
As we enter the 2020s, boroughs are committed to supporting this progress. Next year will see us continue working with our Thrive LDN partners to improve Londoners’ mental health, with a new Thrive LDN campaign exploring how communities build resilience, and helping more and more Londoners to look after their mental wellbeing.
In the meantime, let’s keep looking after each other and I wish readers a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.
Philip Glanville is Mayor of Hackney and London Councils’ Thrive LDN lead.
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