Monday 16 May 2016 4:45 am

The City needs to talk about mental health to combat this silent plague

Today marks the start of World Mental Health Awareness Week, during which the spotlight will be turned on an important issue that for too long has been relegated to the shadows.

Across the world, hundreds of millions of people are affected by mental health conditions. Here in the UK, for example, one in four people will experience a mental health problem this year, with an estimated cost to the economy of £105bn – enough to fund the entire NHS. According to the Centre for Mental Health, the cost to employers alone is £26bn annually. However, 75 per cent of those affected by mental health problems receive no help whatsoever. We need to ask ourselves why.

Part of the answer might lie close to home. People spend much of their lives in work, and we all know the extent to which a job can affect an individual’s mental wellbeing. A recent YouGov poll found that work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives, more so even than financial problems, health, or relationships. Sadly, even in today’s modern work environment, mental health is too often a taboo topic, with people worrying that, if they speak up, they will be perceived as weak or unreliable.

Thankfully, these archaic views on mental health are changing. George Osborne pledged an additional £600m in last year’s Autumn Statement to ensure that people have access to better mental health services. The NHS in England has also pledged to expand access to, and the quality of, its care. This is an investment in the future.

Read more: This is Me: How Barclays is breaking mental health stigma

The need to address mental health issues is especially pertinent here in the City of London. While overall the City’s workforce is young and relatively healthy, with much lower than average workdays lost through sickness, it is no secret that those who work in the Square Mile often work long hours in competitive environments. A survey by the City of London discovered that a third of City respondents found their job to be very stressful for more than just occasional periods.

That’s why I am proud to support “This is Me – In the City”, a campaign run by the The Lord Mayor’s Appeal in conjunction with Mind, Barclays, Business Healthy (itself a City Corporation initiative) and the City Mental Health Alliance, which aims to change the way that mental health is talked about within corporate organisations.

I am especially pleased to report that more than 50 companies have already shown an appetite for change and registered for the initiative, which will launch this coming Friday.

There is still more to do in combatting the silent plague of poor mental health in the City. Now is the right time to speak up for robust support, and receptive and supportive working environments. Please join me in backing this fantastic cause, and encourage your employer to do so as well. The potential benefits are huge – and the chances are that you will be helping someone you know.

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