Latest survey shows we’re still lost for words when it comes to mental health

A new survey has revealed that nearly a third of people in England (28%) would feel uncomfortable asking someone close to them about their mental health problem. When asked why, the top reasons people gave were that they would worry that it would make the other person feel uncomfortable or embarrassed (58%); that they wouldn’t know what to say (32%); that they would worry the other person wouldn’t want to talk about it with them (32%); and that they wouldn’t feel that they could help (27%).

The results come as Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma programme run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, launch a campaign ahead of World Mental Health Day (Saturday 10 October) to highlight the small things that can make a big difference when it comes mental health. The survey conducted by YouGov [1] on behalf of Time to Change, aims to uncover the reasons why people might not feel comfortable broaching the topic of mental health and show that you don’t need to be an expert to support someone close with a mental health issue.

The survey asked how they would feel if someone close to them didn’t tell them that they had a mental health problem and 43% of people said that they would understand, because they would feel awkward talking about it too. However, the survey also found that a quarter of people (25%) would feel upset if they found out that someone didn’t feel that they could tell them about their mental health problem.

As part of the latest campaign, a new film has been produced which focuses on people sharing their first experience of talking about mental health. These stories are also being played across the country with a series of radio ads. The campaign calls on the public to discover the small things that they can do, such as asking someone how they’re doing or inviting someone round for a cup of tea, which can help to let people know that you’re thinking about them and can make a big difference to how they’re feeling. A collection of practical small things are available on the Time to Change website and have been suggested by people with their own experience of mental health problems or someone who has supported a friend, family member of colleague.

Angelique Winston, 41 from London is one of the stars of the new campaign film and talks about being there for her friend:

“After my friend told me that she was struggling with her mental health I felt an immense sense of relief and also privileged that I was the person that she opened up to. I was surprised because she was the strong one and she always was the one who could handle things. I just took her hand and said just keep on talking. I think it was just the action of holding her hand and just saying ‘keep talking, I’m listening’.

“There doesn’t have to be grand gestures in supporting a loved one with a mental health problem. There are times when I haven’t heard from my friend for a few days. I’ll just send her a text to let her know that I’m thinking of her. Talking to someone about their mental health for the first time can be daunting but my biggest piece of advice would be to find someone you trust and then start the conversation, whatever way you feel comfortable and whatever the environment; just start that conversation.”

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said:

“Mental health problems are an everyday issue for millions of us, yet our closest family, partners, friends and colleagues can still feel uncomfortable and ill-equipped to talk about it. Despite recent progress in starting to break down stigma, our latest survey shows that some people still worry about saying or doing the wrong thing so end up not talking about mental health at all. Asking someone how they are, sending a text or arranging to meet up are some of the small but very meaningful gestures that can make the world of difference. Having an open conversation about mental health is easier than people imagine, and our campaign shows people who had done just that, and the difference it has made to their lives.”

To find out about the small things you can do, or share some of your own, go to Talking about mental health, and use #smallthings on social media.

Watch the campaign video >

[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,717 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th-25th September 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in England (aged 18+).

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