The National Suicide Prevention Alliance recognises the importance of promoting good mental health at work, and the vital role this can play in suicide prevention. The City of London Corporation, a member of the NSPA, is raising awareness of workplace well-being in the city, promoting help seeking and providing practical support. You can read about some of the important work they are doing below.
The City of London Corporation
Poor mental health – including stress, anxiety, depression and suicide – is recognised as one of the biggest local issues in the Square Mile, as it is across London and at a national level. Stress at work (whether work-related or otherwise) is one of the main reasons for sickness absence in the UK.
The City of London Corporation is the organisation with local authority responsibilities for the City and over the past few years has been targeting its local resident, worker and visitor populations to provide a coherent place-based approach to mental health and wellbeing across the Square Mile – the UK’s financial and business hub. Almost half a million people come into the City of London every day to work, from across London and the South East.
In the context of the workplace, Business Healthy is an award-winning programme delivered by the City Corporation’s Public Health team. It supports local employers to improve the health and wellbeing of their workforce, providing signposting, access to resources and guidance and hosting expert-led events.
The City Corporation has taken a strategic approach to promoting good mental health in the City, which covers the following areas:
- Awareness-raising and fighting stigma
- Creating a dialogue within the City around mental health
- Opening a physical space to help people to de-stress and build mental resilience
- Taking a partnership approach to suicide prevention
- Establishing a Street Triage service
Awareness-raising and fighting stigma, through marketing, local campaigns, and strategic partnerships with businesses and the third sector
The City of London Corporation launched the City’s first-ever mental health and suicide prevention campaign in June 2017, called “Release the Pressure”. Based on a successful campaign developed by Kent County Council, the Release the Pressure campaign is ongoing and is aimed at those working, living in and visiting the Square Mile. It encourages people to recognise day-to-day stresses that could trigger poor mental health and to seek help for them. By advertising in high-footfall areas in the City and sharing campaign resources with the local business community, the campaign has seen much engagement and led to a tenfold increase in views of the list of mental health support services on the City Corporation’s website.
The City Corporation and Business Healthy supports, resources and promotes other local campaigns and initiatives to local businesses, residents and workers (including the City Corporation’s own 3,000-strong workforce). These include the local CCG’s “5 to Thrive”, the Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s “This Is Me” and green ribbon campaigns, the City Mental Health Alliance and most recently the Samaritans’ Wellbeing in the City tool. All of these are aimed at eradicating stigma attached to mental health – particularly in the workplace.
Creating a dialogue within the City around mental health, parity of esteem, and the role of employers in safeguarding employees’ mental health
A partnership with local businesses is in place, facilitated through the City of London Corporation’s Business Healthy network. Two-way flows of information and best practice are facilitated, including face-to-face and online, and events on mental health in the workplace are hosted for member organisations and their staff, including regular Samaritans’ led Suicide Prevention Awareness Training workshops.
Opening a physical space to help people to de-stress and build mental resilience
Business Healthy has facilitated a collaboration between Mental Fight Club, Barbican and Communities Libraries and Output Arts to open Dragon Café in the City in February, which is based on the successful Dragon Café that has been running in Southwark for the past five years. Funded by the City Corporation and Carnegie UK and the Wellcome Trust’s “Engaging Libraries” scheme, Dragon Café in the City is a six-month pilot and is hosted in a library in the Square Mile. It hosts free activities to help visitors de-stress and build mental resilience, referencing “Release the Pressure” as a key theme. Based on the concept of positive mental wellbeing, it addresses common mental health conditions, such as stress, depression and anxiety. Dragon Café in the City also provides a local platform for Thrive LDN’s Problem-Solving Booths.
Taking a partnership approach to suicide prevention and disruption of suicide attempts
The City Corporation has been leading on a long-term suicide prevention programme, bringing together the City of London Police, Samaritans, RLNI, the local CCG and primary mental health service and other organisations, to reduce suicides among City residents, workers and visitors. This work – focusing on helping those at crisis point – includes placing Samaritans signs on bridges crossing the Thames, distributing suicide intervention guidance to 10,000 commuters, and engaging with the local business community through Business Healthy, to deliver suicide prevention awareness training at a low/ minimal cost (see above).
Establishing a Street Triage service, to divert people in mental distress from being detained
The City of London Corporation and the City of London Police have developed a “Street Triage” programme (launched May 2017) with the local mental health primary care service. Initially introduced as a pilot, it addresses the large number of those detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. The triage moves those at crisis away from police detention to a more care-focused approach, reducing the large amount of resource used to detain those at-risk under police supervision. Mental health professionals join police patrols overnight four times a week, determining the best support for those in crisis on the spot. The evaluation of the first seven months of the triage found that 41% of all potential Section 136s were avoided. Most police officers agreed that the force had given a far better level of care to people in crisis since the triage began. Ongoing funding to expand the triage to seven nights a week has been secured.
To find out more about the work that the City of London Corporation is doing, please get in touch with Tizzy Keller – Strategy Officer and Suicide Prevention Lead, or Xenia Koumi – Project Lead for Business Healthy.