For Mental Health Awareness Week, we sat down with Josh who heads up Safer London’s Wellbeing team. We discussed why it’s important to raise awareness mental health and the role positive emotional wellbeing plays in a young Londoner’s journey in becoming the best version of themselves.

What does mental health or wellbeing mean to you?

The way I think about it everybody has physical health and similarly everyone has mental health. Often when we think of mental health, we think of it as a bad thing. But there’s without a doubt such a thing as positive mental health and well-being.

Having great mental health isn’t something like an achievement that you win in a game and then get to keep for the rest of your life. It’s something you need to take care of just like your physical health.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness week’s theme is Anxiety. Have you got any useful tips or advice or anyone experiencing anxiety or anxious feelings?

Anxiety is something that can affect everyone in so many different ways. So, it is important to understand that what works for some people might not work for others. Some people might find meditation or yoga useful; others might find banging the drums to some heavy metal music soothes their worries.

The biggest tip I can give is to take some time to learn about yourself and find what works for you. If 99 things you try don’t help, but the 100th thing you try does, then the whole journey to discover that thing was worth it.

Again, it’s such a human thing to feel anxious sometimes, but I would say when anxiety affects you from doing the things you enjoy or need to do in life then it is important to be open about that and seek help either with supportive people you trust around you or with a professional.

We have so many different thoughts throughout the day and not all of them are helpful. It’s important to challenge the thoughts that hold us back, because often when you put those thoughts that make us feel anxious under a microscope, they hold very little merit.

How important is mental health and wellbeing for the development and progression of young Londoners – especially in relation to those impacted by violence or exploitation?

Every young Londoner is full of potential. As a society we owe it to them to have every opportunity to be able to live up to that potential and strive to be the best version of themselves they can be, no matter what experiences they might have had.

In order for someone to get to that place there are certain things than need to be in place first. In psychology it’s referred to as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. First,we have to ensure that our basic needs are being met, such as ensuring we have food and shelter, somewhere to sleep and water. We then need to ensure safety needs so that we can live free from worry about anything that might cause us harm. It is then important to feel a sense of belonging – whether that be with our families, friends or communities it’s important that we feel that connection to something outside of ourselves.

From there, we can focus on esteem, feeling respect and recognition both from others and to ourselves and that we have the freedom to live our lives on our terms. If a young Londoner feels all of these things – and for many they might not come easily or straight away – but if we keep working to address all of these needs, then it allows us to reach that point where we can really think about how to be the best most authentic version of who we are.

It’s our belief at Safer London that every young Londoner can get to that point where they can be their best selves. Safer London’s Specialists Wellbeing caseworkers are there to support young Londoners if any one of these needs is missing or comprised. They work alongside the young Londoner to empower and support them to get the things in place that will allow them to move up the ladder towards the lives they want and deserve. 

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would pass on to the young Londoners we work with around their emotional wellbeing/mental health?

Never to give up on yourself, because there’s ways potential for change and for things to get better. It’s important to have on outlet, rather than keeping something inside. This can be as simple as talking to someone, keeping active or writing a journal. Anything that can allow those difficult emotions to come out.