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Together We Can Make Londoners' Mental Well-Being Thrive And Flourish

31/07/2017 16:02 | Updated 01 August 2017
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Mental health affects people from all walks of life and every background. Many of us will know someone in our family, at our workplace or in our friendship circles who has experienced mental ill health. While certain groups are at higher risk of developing a mental illness - such as young BAME men and members of the LGBT+ community - these conditions don't discriminate against people based on their age, gender, ethnicity, faith, social class or sexual orientation. They often emerge out of the blue and can affect anyone, at any time.

Nearly half of the population will face mental health issues at some point in their lives. The likelihood that someone close to us will be affected - and the prevalence of such serious and debilitating conditions across our society means we all have a stake in creating an environment where those with mental ill health are treated with the compassion, respect and understanding they deserve.

We also have a shared interest in raising awareness about the benefits of being more open - both as individuals and as a society - towards those experiencing mental health problems. Nobody should feel forced to conceal a mental illness for fear of the reaction of their peers or their employer. Everyone should be free and comfortable to speak openly about their mental health. At present, only 25% of people living with mental health problems seek treatment. This is an astonishingly low figure and a cause for concern.

While in recent years we have witnessed much progress and a greater public understanding of the issues surrounding mental health, the alarming picture painted by these statistics suggests a form of stigma still prevails and that more urgently needs to be done. Identifying and addressing outdated attitudes must be a priority for all of us. Whilst we each have an obligation to look out for the wellbeing of our families, friends and colleagues, there are also compelling economic reasons why we should act too. London's businesses and industry are currently estimated to lose £10.4billion each year due to poor mental health, with reduced productivity and sick days accounting for a significant proportion of these costs. Employers therefore have a vested interest and a great deal to gain in helping staff who are going through a difficult time getting better and back to the workplace.

It's so important we improve everyone's knowledge of mental health, boost awareness of the services available, and give people the confidence they need to come forward and seek help. So as Mayor of London I'm working with a range of partners, including businesses large and small, as part of Thrive LDN - a new movement I launched earlier this month to help improve mental health and wellbeing in every borough and corner of our capital.

Developed through conversations with people living with mental health problems and more than 200 experts - drawn from the fields of health and academia, the voluntary and community sector, as well as public and private organisations - Thrive LDN is a citywide campaign that aims to empower London's communities to take action on poor mental health, and to address the underlying causes and inequalities behind it.

Six aspirations have been developed to get the conversation going with Londoners and to test the priority areas where we will work together to improve mental health in our capital. We want to support more Londoners to maintain good mental health, stamp out mental health stigma and discrimination, involve more young people through working with schools and youth organisations, increase access to support and services through the use of digital technology and reduce the number of suicides in London.

Inspired by a similar movement in New York, Thrive LDN encourages better working between local authorities, health services, police and the third sector when dealing with people living with poor mental health. By working together to focus on improving Londoners' mental health, and by involving Londoners themselves, we hope to take big strides forward in delivering effective support and care for those who desperately need it.

Through Thrive LDN we will also continue to develop the way we think and talk about mental health and wellbeing. Over the longer term, this will ensure we're able to refine and refresh our policies and adopt the latest and most innovative approaches. It is through this constant evolution and the continued dedication and ideas of everyone involved, that I believe we can change perceptions around mental health and collectively make a real difference.

Improving mental health is a complex challenge, but together, I believe we can achieve our ambition of making London the happiest and healthiest city on earth - a city that is open to those who need help, and a city where all Londoners can flourish and thrive.

Get involved by using the Twitter hashtag #OKLDN or by visiting thriveldn.co.uk

Sadiq Khan is the Mayor of London

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