Sadiq Khan

Good relationships are vital to our mental health and wellbeing

19 May 2016

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Today I’m going to talk about this year’s theme, relationships.

Many of us take our relationships for granted. But they’re one of the most important aspects of our lives.  When I was growing up, it was the strong relationships I had with my mum, dad and siblings that helped me to flourish. Some of you may not know this, but my dad was a bus driver and my mum was a seamstress. I was brought up on a council estate with my brothers and sister. There was a real sense of community on the estate. Families stayed near each other when they left home. They supported each other and built long-term friendships with their neighbours.

My parents were very clear about one thing: they wanted their children to do better than them. My siblings and I went to university or into good apprenticeships. Our parents had high hopes for us. This helping hand gave us the strength to fulfil our ambitions. It also helped me go onto have a happy and successful marriage of my own. I am lucky to have these support networks, but I am very aware that some people are not so lucky.

Today, too many of us lack these vital support family and friends can bring. Positive relationships help us live longer, happier, healthier lives. They also help protect us from physical and mental health problems. In these days of social media, many of us have hundreds of ‘friends’. What’s important to remember, is that it’s not the number of friends you have, but the quality of your close relationships that matters.

I know that a significant minority of our fellow citizens feel isolated. A poll of a thousand Londoners found that over a quarter of them were lonely often or all of the time. The same number said there was little or no sense of community in their part of London. This figure rose to one in three for Londoners aged 65 and over.

Many of us know that relationships are important. Yet, in our busy lives, we often let work and commitments get in the way.  But our relationships need nurturing to survive. We need to invest time and effort to maintain good relationships.

I’m asking you to think about the quality of your relationships and what you can do to improve them. I’ve made my relationships resolution for Mental Health Awareness Week. What will yours be?