Mayor of London calls for better awareness of mental health

10 October 2014

With countries across the globe marking World Mental Health Day, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is calling for increased awareness of mental ill health, which affects one in four Londoners and costs the capital an estimated £26 billion each year.

According to a report by the Mayor, around two million Londoners will experience mental ill health this year, which can affect every aspect of life, from family relationships, to the ability to work and cope at school or college. Stigma and prejudice can make people reluctant to come forward or seek support. As a result, mental illnesses have drastically lower rates of diagnosis, and are treated less often and less effectively than other diseases.

Mental ill health is the single largest source of health burden, above even cancer and cardiovascular disease, with costs extending well beyond health and social care. The Mayor’s Office has identified it as a priority issue and it is likely to be a key concern in the report published next week by the London Health Commission, which the Mayor set up as an independent review of health services in the capital and is chaired by Lord Ara Darzi.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Mental ill health is an issue that affects millions of Londoners, yet we are too often frightened to discuss it, worried about what people might think, or unaware of who to turn to. World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to bolster awareness of this issue amongst businesses, schools, colleges and Londoners in general, to help break down the oppressive social barriers that exist around mental ill health and get people the help and support they urgently need.”

City Hall today hosted an event in conjunction with the Mental Health Foundation and SANE, looking at the impact mental ill health has had on individuals and discussing what needs to be done. The Deputy Mayor of London Victoria Borwick hosted the event, which was attended by Londoners with experience of mental ill health and representatives from relevant charities.

Victoria Borwick said: “Today is about speaking up and getting comfortable with talking about mental health. We have heard from people with experience about what it means to live with mental ill health, and we as Londoners need to work together to keep the discussion going and ensure no one is left to suffer in silence.”

Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We are delighted that the Mayor is making the mental health of Londoners a priority. For London’s employers, the message is that looking after their employees’ mental health is good for business and good for talent. And by ensuring that mental health is actively on the agenda in all London schools, it will help young people grow up being aware of their own mental health and resilience, creating a healthy and prosperous London for the future.”

Marjorie Wallace CBE, Founder and Chief Executive of SANE, said: “People are still embarrassed to talk about mental illness, and there is still a culture of blame and shame. That is why we launched our Black Dog campaign, so that people passing by can see a visible symbol of their inner, darker feelings. It’s easier to say ‘I’ve had a Black Dog day or week’ than it is to say ‘I’ve had anxiety or depression’.”


Notes to editors

The Mayor published a report ‘London Mental Health: The invisible costs of mental ill health’ earlier this year, which calls for more action on mental ill health in the capital after research found it costs London around £26 billion in economic and social costs annually. The report is available to download by visiting:

Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation is a UK-wide charity that carries out research, campaigns for better mental health services, and works to raise awareness of all mental health issues to help us all lead mentally healthier lives. Registered Charity Nos: (England & Wales) 801130: (Scotland) SC 039714.


SANE is a UK-wide charity set up to improve the quality of life for people affected by mental illness. It has three objectives:

  • to raise awareness and combat stigma about mental illness, educating and campaigning to improve mental health services
  • to provide care and emotional support for people with mental health problems, their families and carers as well as information for other organisations and the public
  • to initiate research into the causes and treatments of serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and depression and the psychological and social impact of mental illness

SANE’s Black Dog Campaign

SANE’s Black Dog Campaign aims to reduce the stigma and misunderstanding of depression and mental health problems and encourage more people to seek help. To bring the campaign to life, visually striking Black Dog statues have been placed in locations across the country, each of which has a ‘collar of hope’ and ‘coat’ designed by celebrities, artists and members of the public.

The Black Dog has been used from classical mythology through medieval folklore to modern times as a universal metaphor for depression. The concept forms the basis of SANE’s Black Dog Campaign, and we hope that the Black Dog metaphor will give people a language in which to express their inner feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness.

One of the Black Dog statues was at City Hall earlier today for a photocall with the Deputy Mayor.

London Health Commission report

The London Health Commission will publish its report on Wednesday 15 October. For more information go to