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City of London Corporation policy chair, Catherine McGuiness, explains why it is important to tackle old problems in the new year, and where help can be found.

The new year has begun, and after the festive break we are all returning to our normal routines.

Waking up early, getting ready for work, dashing out the door to catch the train or bus with coffee in hand – the normal stroll to the office from the station, the “good mornings” and “how are yous?” with colleagues and the predictable “fine, thanks” as a response.

With roughly one in four Brits likely to experience a mental health problem each year (according to the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care) it’s likely though that many of those who say “fine, thanks” are masking ongoing and everyday struggles in a bid to maintain the appearance of a stiff upper lip.

And this time of year can seem particularly bleak, with a long way to go before spring but no further festivals or breaks to look forward to.

Bottling up feelings, whether they are frustration, anxiety, sadness, worry, or something else, can make them worse. There is value in the old adage “a problem shared, is a problem halved”; speaking about problems may help the individual in tackling their causes head-on.

There is a gap between that one in four statistic and the number of people reporting poor mental health and common mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

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Managing stress levels is critical to mental wellbeing, and help is out there

This tells us that despite the great strides taken to tackle mental health-related stigma in the UK, there are still people suffering in silence.

This is the driver behind the City of London Corporation’s ‘Release the Pressure’ campaign, which is aimed at Square Mile residents and workers and encourages people to seek help for everyday issues that can have a knock-on effect on their mental wellbeing.

Individuals are best placed to spot when those they live, work or socialise regularly with are not themselves.

Signs that someone may be struggling include changes in personality or behaviour, increased alcohol or drug use, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and signs of self-inflicted physical harm.

Even if you aren’t medically qualified, or even trained in mental health first aid, you can help someone struggling with their mental health.

There are plenty of resources – which are often free – that can provide a helping hand. Visit the City Corporation’s ‘Mental Health’ webpage for a list of some of these resources, which include the award-winning Dragon Café in the City. Hosted in Shoe Lane Library, the café provides a quiet space for residents and workers to release the pressure.

It offers a wide range of free, creative activities aimed at supporting people to develop skills in looking after their own mental wellbeing and boosting their resilience. It is open to all and will be re-launching for 2019 on 30 January, and running fortnightly.

Meanwhile, Thrive LDN is a Mayor of London-backed campaign that helps communities across the Capital to organise local activities focused on tackling mental illness and promoting mental wellbeing.

Mental health is fluid and fluctuates, just as physical health does; there is no shame in this. Whatever you’re going through, you can call Samaritans free any time, from any phone on 116 123.

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