City Lit Blog

Why it’s important to continue the conversation around mental health…

Story added 10th Oct 2018

During the last few years, it’s been really positive to see a noticeable shift in attitudes towards mental health. From royalty, to sporting icons, to politicians, it’s fantastic to see we are becoming more comfortable as a society in openly discussing our mental health with friends, family members and colleagues. However, statistics indicate there is still plenty of work to do to ensure even more people can overcome any fears they may hold about opening up about a mental health issue. 

To mark World Mental Health Day, Prime Minister Theresa May hosted a reception at Downing Street today where she announced new funding for Samaritans’ helpline that will help ensure the charity can continue to provide immediate and lifesaving support to everyone who needs it, 24 hours a day. The Prime Minister also announced that health minister Jackie Doyle-Price will become the UK’s first Minister for Suicide Prevention.

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 800,000 people tragically take their own life each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. 

In 2016, 6,364 people took their own lives across the UK and Republic of Ireland. New research highlighted by charity Samaritans estimates that for every suicide, 135 people are exposed (knew the person who died). This highlights the large circle of people who are affected by every suicide, who may also be in need of support. 

Suicide is complex and there are a range of psychological, social, cultural and economic factors that influence suicide risk. There is rarely one single reason that leads a person to take their own life. Mental health is one of the factors that is associated with suicide. Research has shown that people with a diagnosed mental health disorder are more likely to die by suicide than the general population. However, only 1 in 3 people who die by suicide have been in contact with mental health services in the year before their death. Whilst the nature of mental health issues naturally differ from person to person, the statistics suggest that there are far too many people not getting the required help they need. 

Last month, we took part in a discussion on suicide prevention in Parliament as part of this year’s Mental Wealth Festival, hosted by City Lit and Beyond Words. As London’s leading adult education college, City Lit takes a leading role in promoting positive mental wellbeing, and also in helping people make that first step in having the confidence to talk openly about their personal challenges. 

City Lit, in partnership with Books Beyond Words, has delivered the Mental Wealth Festival since 2015. It is a groundbreaking event that highlights how mental health issues impact on so many aspects of daily life. The event celebrates and promotes activities, projects, ideas, tools and approaches that restore, support and enhance mental wealth. Whilst not shying away from addressing the problems in society that contribute to mental ill health, this festival focusses on the solutions and positive outcomes of mental wellbeing. It also provides an open forum for debate and discussion and allows people to speak freely about their own experiences – with leading organisations contributing to the policy debate.

A recent report from UNESCO suggests adult learning is one of the ‘keys of the twenty-first century’. Adult education can lift people’s motivation, confidence and sense of wellbeing. People taking part in adult education activities are more likely to be healthier, happier and more resilient, and these positive effects can reach into the surrounding community. We completely agree with this sentiment, no more so than when applied to fostering positive mental wellbeing. Adult education provides the opportunity to learn new skills but also combats some of the emerging issues now facing society. Studying on an adult education course is not only a chance to broaden your horizons, upskill or simply enjoy some much-needed downtime from work or personal pressures. It also provides an invaluable opportunity to socialise, meet people from different backgrounds and forge lasting friendships and connections for life. All of these factors play a crucial part in helping people keep mentally and emotionally well. 

We are calling for all parliamentarians to recognise the growing challenge that mental health creates for all individuals, whatever their circumstances, and are delighted to support the work of City Lit ,  particularly during the Mental Wealth Festival , to help maintain a positive balance in our lives. 

A joint article by City Lit, Johnny Mercer MP, Norman Lamb MP, Luciana Berger MP and Samaritans