Catherine McGuinness: It’s always a good time to talk about mental health


How often do you tell people that you’re fine… when perhaps, you’re not?

Some people go onto auto-pilot as they tackle their daily routine. Smiling all the time or, at least, wearing a blank face to cover up their true feelings.

According to the mental health charity, Mind, one in four of us in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, with one in six of people in England suffering from anxiety or depression in any given week.

And let me be very clear: there is no shame in admitting to yourself that your mental health is suffering, and certainly not in telling someone that you are not feeling well.

Our mental health is fluid and it fluctuates, in the same way that our physical health does.

The Mental Health Foundation puts it very well: “You may bounce back from a setback, while someone else may feel weighed down by it for a long time. Your mental health… can change as circumstances change and you move through different stages of your life.”

The Foundation has been championing World Mental Health Day, which was held yesterday, taking as its theme ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.

Inequalities have a huge impact on the likelihood that someone will experience poor mental health, as well as its severity.

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According to Government statistics, some groups of people who were already more at risk of experiencing poor mental health prior to the pandemic – such as women and young adults – were more likely than the general population to suffer from deteriorating symptoms during the pandemic.

And as we know, the pandemic caused huge disruption to the provision of health and social care services.

For our part, the City of London Corporation is helping workers, residents and students in the Square Mile to access support.

For example, our Business Healthy network offers free resources, information, and signposting on mental health and wellbeing City firms to share with their workforce.

There are plenty of other resources – most of them, free – that are accessible via the City Corporation’s ‘Mental Health’ webpage, including the much lauded and award-winning Dragon Café in the City.

Hosted by the City’s Shoe Lane Library, the café provides a quiet space where residents and workers can release the pressure.

Described recently by one library user as “vital” during their “incredibly stressful” working from home routine, I find this type of feedback hugely encouraging and testament to the hard work and dedication of the libraries’ staff.

And I would argue that returning to the physical workplace can have a positive effect on people’s mental health, as well as team morale, creativity, and networking opportunities.

After nearly a year-and-a-half of working from home, doesn’t it feel good to be back in a shared space with colleagues that you haven’t seen in the flesh for so long?

We are talking increasingly more about our mental health these days, but the stigma remains, and that prevents others from opening up.

My colleagues will continue to support those in need and of course, organisations like Samaritans (116 123) and Good Thinking continue to do sterling work.

Whether it’s to a stranger, a colleague, family member, or a friend, talking about how you are feeling can be very helpful.

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