Thrive LDN World Mental Health Day

Brits’ wellbeing at low point and may be worse for London’s disadvantaged communities

Many measures of wellbeing are currently at their lowest point of the pandemic, but the situation could be even worse for disadvantaged communities in London.  

‘Life satisfaction’ and ‘feeling life is worthwhile’ are currently at their lowest point since the pandemic began, according to data from the ONS. 

Results from the Opinions and Lifestyle survey also indicate that 57% of British people feel their wellbeing has been affected by the pandemic and 35% reported high levels of anxiety between 10 and 14 February. 

Happiness levels are as low as they were at the outset of the pandemic.  

These statistics show that many people are struggling with the coronavirus crisis and explain why Mind highlights on the front page of its website that we are living through a ‘mental health emergency’. 

The data illustrates the situation for the average British person, but doesn’t represent local variation, and in particular how disadvantaged communities in London feel.

The director of Thrive LDN, a citywide movement to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all Londoners, Dan Barrett, said: “It is important to acknowledge that for many Londoners, feelings of anxiety and sadness are entirely normal reactions to difficult circumstances, not symptoms of poor mental health. 

“There are small things which we can all can do to build our strength and resilience to help us deal with and adapt well to stressful circumstances.

“However, there is growing evidence that the pandemic has widened pre-existing inequalities.

“The economic hardship and mental health issues arising from the pandemic are disproportionately affecting Londoners with lived experiences of marginalisation and social disadvantage. 

“For many communities, the coronavirus pandemic is the latest crisis event in a crisis trend – a steadily worsening series of situations they face.”

Some of the people highlighted in Thrive LDN’s campaigns include BAME communities who are experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression aggravated by higher mortality from the virus.

It also includes: refugees, asylum seekers, human trafficking survivors, and undocumented young people who already struggled with isolation, PTSD, and anxiety before the pandemic, and people without access to digital devices or the internet, who are left isolated or unable to access services.

A lack of information on the experiences and needs of these people makes it especially difficult to assess their situation, but Thrive LDN’s work suggests some explanations as to why wellbeing is so low.

Londoners are experiencing increased anxiety, stress, and social isolation, exacerbated by the winter months and crisis fatigue. 

Anecdotal insights through their work have also shown that people are spending less time volunteering and exercising, and more time working and using screens for recreation than in the first lockdown, suggesting a decline in healthy coping mechanisms.

The Centre for Mental Health has predicted that up to 10 million people in England will need either new or additional mental health support because of the pandemic.

That means almost two million more Londoners could need support for their mental health.

Thrive LDN plans to meet the burgeoning crisis with enhanced support services, especially in partnership with grassroots groups, and improved communication and research.

The difficulty of coping with uncertainty came up as a common theme in Thrive LDN’s community engagement, and the organisation has responded by focusing its work on cultivating the emotional resilience needed to combat that uncertainty.

Barrett outlined other ways to improve the wellbeing of Londoners

He said: “As part of Thrive LDN’s community engagement activities, communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic have identified the positive significance of family and support structures as well as the support offered by the wider community and faith groups. 

“If we are to support the wellbeing and resilience of all Londoners in response to the pandemic, then there is a requirement for a multiagency approach that ensures that all Londoners who need help and support receive it.”

As one participant in the Thrive Together campaign said: “We don’t always know how, but we know we’ll be OK together.” 

Thrive LDN are currently coordinating the mental health response to the pandemic for Public Health England in London and are supported by the Mayor of London. 

Feature image credit: Thrive LDN

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