South London Listens: kicking off a new agenda for mental health prevention in South London

Earlier this month The South London Mental Health and Community Partnership launched a major listening campaign to support and protect people’s mental health following Covid-19.

Covid-19 has upended life as we know it. The mental wellbeing of many people has been impacted directly by the pandemic, whether through the virus itself, the impact on jobs and the economy, self-isolation or the tragedy of losing a loved one. We also know that Covid-19 is having a disproportionate impact on our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, exacerbating health inequalities.

In response, the South London Mental Health and Community with local authorities, hosted a series of urgent online events over the summer to engage communities in south London to help us better understand the pandemic’s mental health impacts.

Following these, the ‘South London Covid-19 Preventing Mental-ill Health Taskforce’ was created. Its purpose is to take forward a long-term programme focused on working upstream: nipping issues in the bud and preventing people falling into mental health crises. The Taskforce is made up of representatives from across our three organisations, as well as our CCG partners, local authorities, Healthwatch, Public Health England, Citizens UK, Black Thrive and experts by experience. Together the group built on the insights gained to develop a set of ambition statements in six key areas:

  1. Social isolation, loneliness and community involvement
  2. Helping people who are at risk of losing their jobs cope
  3. Housing insecurity and environment
  4. Supporting communities and groups who experience disadvantage
  5. Supporting families, children and young people
  6. Developing a long-term, joined-up approach to prevention

Alongside this, the Taskforce has started work to shape solutions to the impacts of Covid-19 on our communities’ mental health. Ideas include tackling the digital divide, improving mental health awareness and signposting, co-producing information on mental health promotion and prevention, identifying the barriers to support and growing community networks.

Above all, we know that building a new agenda for mental health prevention in South London starts with listening. That’s why this month we have joined in partnership with Citizens UK to launch a new campaign, ‘South London Listens’.

South London Listens is about putting people at the heart of this work. From now until June 2021, Citizens UK will engage local community groups, mental health trusts and local authorities to reach out and listen to communities in the boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark, Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth.

Using the Taskforce’s ideas as a starting point, the campaign will help shape meaningful, and viable actions that can be delivered by community partners and local public institutions to protect and support the mental health of south London communities in the wake of the pandemic.

South London Listens will ensure everyone has a voice as we co-create our vision of a mentally healthier future for south London. We will then bring together all the insights, ideas and experiences to develop a two-year action plan which will be published in Spring 2021.

By taking a ‘whole community’ approach in this way, we want to weave wellbeing into every area of life, break stigma, support more people to seek help when they need it and empower south Londoners to lead mentally healthy lives.

We know preventative action can be transformational. Decades of evidence speak to its impact across society. From seatbelts to First-Aid, vaccines, contraception and diet and exercise, we have harnessed prevention in countless ways to protect and promote our physical health and wellbeing.

As we enter what’s being described as the “Decade of Action” on health by the UN General Assembly, preventative action to promote and protect our communities’ mental health has never been more urgent.

Find out more about South London Listens and sign up today.

If you need support, the NHS is here for you. For more information on mental health services available in South London visit slam.nhs.uk, swlstg.nhs.uk and oxleas.nhs.uk