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Mental Health Awareness Week 2016

As this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week campaign asks people to focus on the relationships in their lives that form valuable social networks, various events and activities around Hackney are echoing this importance and offering residents the chance to build networks and strengthen their relationships.

16 May 2016

Shoreditch Trust, a Hackney based charity, runs programmes and activities in the community that provide the opportunity to build networks and relationships with others. Activities on offer include health assessments and advice, maternity support schemes, and training and mentoring opportunities for young people, to mention a few. Central to all of their projects, however, is the aim to address the lack of social networks and isolation that is increasingly felt by residents.

Loneliness is a growing problem, with almost three in ten British adults (28%) admitting that they feel lonely at least some of the time1, and 52% of Londoners feeling that ‘people are getting lonelier in general’2. This feeling of loneliness contributes to low mood, and can make difficulties such as stress and anxiety harder to cope with. It’s not just serious illnesses that need to be addressed when thinking about mental health - these feelings are all part of this state, and are just as important to overcome.

Simple things, like getting enough sleep, exercising and having strong relationships with the people around you can help to reduce these feelings.

Shoreditch Trust’s Stop Smoking service is one area where positive relationships are particularly helpful in supporting clients. 50% of people that enter the programme say they have, or have previously experienced, symptoms of stress or depression. Having support from someone else, such as the advisors within the service, makes smokers over four times more likely to be successful in quitting, showing the importance of being part of a strong network when facing challenging situations.
One quitter that has accessed the service, Markus Wilson, commented: “Before, I kept hitting a brick wall because I was doing it on my own, but this time I literally felt like I wasn’t on my own at any point…I know I did most of the work but without the Smokefree guys I would never have got there!
I feel much better... Before, the first thing I would want in the morning would be a cigarette and that would be my first battle. Now my first thought is more optimistic”.

The value of strong relationships is also emphasised in Cook and Eat sessions, led by the Food for Life team at Shoreditch Trust. These healthy cooking courses not only allow residents to learn tips on how to create healthy, affordable meals, but also bring members of the local community together to share in making and eating meals together. For some residents this is a unique opportunity - Marie* said: “The only time I sit down and share food with other people is at [these] classes.”
Across the six week courses, participants can build relationships with their neighbours, and create strong networks in their communities. This chance to be around others, and share experiences with them makes a huge difference to people like Pete*, who said he “wouldn't normally leave the house" without these classes.

Strong social relationships and networks are therefore a huge benefit to individuals throughout life, particularly when approaching situations that might seem stressful or overwhelming. There are plenty of ways to access groups and programmes that offer the opportunity to become part of a solid network in Hackney, whilst taking part in activities of interest, such as cooking, exercising, quitting smoking, or even volunteering. If you would like to find out more about any of the services offered by Shoreditch Trust, or become a volunteer, please call 020 7033 8500.

Shoreditch Trust is also part of the City and Hackney Wellbeing Network, providing specialised support for those looking to address their Mental Health concerns more directly. Referrals can be made at

*Names changed for data protection purposes.
1 Poll of over 2,000 adults from across Great Britain, carried out by ComRes for the BBC, December 2014.
2 Taken from ACEVO’s Youth Loneliness report ‘Coming in from the Cold’, March 2016.

Information on City and Hackney Wellbeing Network
The City and Hackney Wellbeing Network offers high-quality free support to help people prevent the onset of mental health problems and alleviate issues such as stress, anxiety and low mood. They also offer support to adults with severe and enduring mental health conditions.
A dynamic and diverse partnership of eleven specialist mental health providers, the Wellbeing Network empowers people towards better mental and physical wellbeing. They offer a range of groups and courses to support people to improve their mental wellbeing, physical health, social networks and daily living skills.