Monday 18 May 2020 6:00 am

Kindness at the heart of City's mental health efforts

William Russell is Lord Mayor of London.

Even amid the anxiety and sad stories that have engulfed many of our daily lives, rays of light – acts of kindness that have made the news and that we have ourselves experienced first-hand – have still managed to cut through.

It’s no surprise that the links between kindness and mental wellbeing are well-established in science. For example, “giving” and “connecting” are among two actions endorsed by the NHS to improve personal wellbeing. In short, doing good does us good.

Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen countless demonstrations of kindness; individuals, charities and businesses generously giving their time, energy and other resources to support our carers and key workers, as well as those who are most in need.

It is a natural fit, therefore, that the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is “kindness”. This helps to shine a light on the huge impact that being kind can have in preventing and improving poor mental health and supporting mental wellbeing across our society.

I’m proud of the steps we have taken in the City to provide a helping hand during these difficult times. Last month for example, the City Bridge Trust pledged £1 million to a new emergency support fund – the London Community Response Fund – throwing a lifeline to London’s community and voluntary organisations affected by the financial pressures and uncertainty relating to COVID-19.

More widely, the City of London Corporation continues to demonstrate its commitment and dedication to improving and supporting the mental health of its communities – residents, workers, students and rough sleepers – through initiatives such as Dragon Café in the City, which provides a  fortnightly programme of free, creative activities designed to help people to release the pressure of day-to-day life, and which can now be accessed virtually during lockdown.

Our Mental Health Street Triage is a pioneering and award-winning initiative delivered by the City Corporation, City of London Police and the East London NHS Foundation Trust, which has kindness at its heart. Forming part of the local multi-agency suicide prevention programme, it provides on-the-spot assistance to those in crisis.

And a new City Wellbeing Centre – being led by Tavistock Relationships with support from the City Corporation – will soon be made available to our local communities, based on a model of ensuring that mental health therapy is available, accessible and affordable to residents and workers on low incomes.

Employers and businesses are a vital part of our local community and we continue to support them to improve the mental health of their employees, through the Business Healthy network delivered through the City Corporation’s Public Health team, and to tackle stigma and raise awareness of mental health in the workplace through the “This Is Me” and green ribbon campaigns of my charity, the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, as well as the “Wellbeing in the Workplace” free online training programme developed in partnership with Samaritans. This is more important than ever as we all learn to adapt to the challenges posed by new ways of working.

Please remember that NHS and other services providing support for health and wellbeing are still open and should be accessed if needed. Showing kindness to others during these uncertain times will help us as individuals and as a collective to remain resilient.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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