New survey shows that mental health is a ‘nonversation’ for parents

Over half (55%) of parents in England have never spoken to their children about the topic of mental health (including wellbeing, stress, anxiety and depression). The poll of parents across England is being released today by Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma programme run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, as they launch a major campaign to reduce mental health stigma among teens and parents. The campaign, which is funded by the Department of Health, includes advertising to reach 14-18 year olds and their parents as well as work in schools with the charity YoungMinds.

One in ten young people will experience a mental health problem – that’s three in every classroom. However, in this latest survey parents said the main reason they hadn’t had a conversation was because it’s not something that they feel they need to discuss (45%).

The survey, conducted by Opinion Matters[1] on behalf of Time to Change, aimed to uncover whether parents are talking to their children about mental health and if not, why not. Of the 55% of parents who hadn’t ever raised the topic of mental health with their child 20% said they chose not to because they wouldn’t know what to say.  

Building on existing work with this audience over the last four years, Time to Change has produced two new adverts to reach young people aged 14-18 and their parents. The first film is aimed at young people and stars spoken word artist Suli Breaks who performs a short spoken word piece about teenagers who had mental health problems when they were younger and faced stigma as a result. The film calls on young people to think twice about judging a friend or classmate who has a mental health problem. The second film encourages parents to be ready to have a conversation about mental health with their child and to weave it into everyday conversations, just as they would with friendship issues, relationships, body image and exam stress. This comes after insights showed that a ‘nonversation’ was happening between parents and their children. This is where both groups would wait for each other to start the conversation and when one of them did, it became awkward and the conversation would be quickly shut down.

The campaign will include online advertising targeting sites that will reach young people and parents, radio adverts played nationwide aimed at reaching parents on the school run and bus adverts to reach young people on their way to and from school. Work in 60 schools across six areas in England will also be rolled out with YoungMinds. As part of this, staff will receive training and free resources to deliver sessions in secondary schools. It will involve young people who have had mental health problems delivering education sessions in schools to share their experience of living with a mental illness and the impact that stigma and discrimination has had on their lives.

This latest campaign comes after a £660,000 investment from the Department of Health, following a proposal laid out in the Future in mind[2] report calling for a national conversation about mental health, specifically aimed at young people and their parents. The report also established a clear and powerful consensus about the need for change to improve children and young people's mental health and wellbeing.

Nadine Peacock’s 19-year-old daughter Emma experienced mental health problems in her early teens. She said:

“Parents at the school were initially understanding and supportive about Emma’s issues, but as time went on many of them started to avoid me. I felt quite let down by people, who were quick to judge without asking me about what was really going on. As a family, we all felt stigmatised.

“Being a parent isn’t easy and it’s sometimes difficult to gauge if your child is experiencing a mental illness or being a typical teenager. My biggest piece of advice - make mental health part of everyday conversation with your child. Even if your child isn’t experiencing any issues, if something does crop up further down the line at least then they feel like they can have an open conversation with you about it. There also needs to be more education around the topic at school; the more openly this is discussed in the classroom, the less of a taboo mental health will be.”

Daniela Beck (19) started to experience mental health problems when she was just 12 years old. She said:

“Some of my friends thought that I was attention seeking. They would say things like, ‘why are you crying? Nothing is wrong with you. You’re such a drama queen.’ Comments like this made me feel even more isolated. I felt so different from everybody else, and comments like this just made me feel worse. I was already so confused by how I felt, but people’s reactions made it seem like my feelings weren’t valid and something I should feel guilty for.

“When it comes to being there for someone with a mental health problem, just simply listening and not judging is key. There isn’t any expectation of you to solve or change anything, but giving your friend space to talk, without a fear of being judged, can make a massive impact.”

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said:

“This has to be the generation for change.  Mental health problems are a common experience for three children in every classroom. Recent research has also shown that more than two-thirds of headteachers were worried about their pupils’ mental health [3].  Sadly, the stigma experienced as a result stops young people from doing everyday things such as going out with friends, attending school and having relationships. A quarter have also told us that stigma has made them want to give up on life.

“It’s important to recognise that all young people have mental health and wellbeing, just like they have physical health. Our research has shown that talking about mental health is still seen as too awkward for many parents and young people and we need to change that in the home, at school, on social media and in wider social circles. They feel that mental health is not relevant to their lives so don’t see the value in talking about it. This campaign has to challenge that perception and help parents to be “conversation ready”, as well as encourage young people to avoid being judgemental of their peers.”

Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said:

“YoungMinds is delighted to be working with Time to Change on this exciting campaign to help reduce the stigma around mental health and support parents and young people. Its aim to talk about mental health in a natural, constructive and non-judgemental way, rather than avoiding the issue, is so important for young people and parents who may be suffering.”

Suli Breaks, a spoken word artist from London who supports the campaign, said:

“It’s not always attention seeking and it’s not always exaggerated – there could be a mental health issue which revolves around some of these things. If people are more aware of it, it prevents exclusion, it prevents discrimination and people who are maybe experiencing such issues from being stigmatised.”

Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt said:

“Talking about mental health can be hard – for young people, for teachers, and for parents and carers – but often it is a vital first step towards greater understanding.

“This campaign is the largest of its kind, funded by government, and is part of the biggest transformation to young people's mental health.

“There is no question that tackling stigma remains a big challenge. I hope this campaign breaks down barriers and helps all with responsibilities towards children speak more about mental health with them.”

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

“Mental health is a priority for this Government, which is why we are delivering the greatest investment in young people’s mental health services ever through £1.4 billion over the next five years.

“It is vitally important that young people feel able to talk to each other about mental health so we can tackle the stigma around it. That’s why campaigns such as this one are so important. This is one of a number of initiatives and projects aimed at improving awareness and helping young people understand mental health issues, and I am delighted to support the campaign.”

You can view the national campaign videos here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLW8cG1kJhcvfTZ5vPookpZupO1Xcy-MMj

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For more information please contact Emma Warren, Senior Media Officer at Time to Change at e.warren@time-to-change.org.uk or call 0208 215 2358 or 07789 721966.

Notes to Editors

* For access to a range of free images to accompany mental health news stories please visit: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/getthepicture. These images have been developed by the anti-stigma campaign Time to Change, run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund.

Time to Change

Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. The programme is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund.

For more information go to www.time-to-change.org.uk

Young Minds

YoungMinds is the UK’s leading children’s mental health charity committed to improving the mental health and emotional well-being of children and empowering their parents and carers. For further information go to www.youngminds.org.uk

For further information, photos and to arrange interviews please contact Shirin Zaid on 020 7089 5050 email shirin.zaid@youngminds.org.uk

For further statistics about children and young people’s mental health visit http://www.youngminds.org.uk/about/whats_the_problem/mental_health_statistics

YoungMinds Parents helpline: 0808 802 5544

Keep up to date with YoungMinds. Follow us on Twitter and make friends with us on Facebook

Department of Health

On 2 February 2011 the Department of Health launched No health without mental health, a cross-government mental health outcomes strategy for people of all ages which has the twin aims of keeping people well and improving their mental health and, when people are not well, improving their outcomes through high-quality services.

The strategy is based on six shared objectives, developed with partners from across the mental health sector, and focuses on recovery and the reduction of stigma and discrimination as overarching themes. 

To reduce the stigma faced by people with mental health problems, the Department has been supporting Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, since 2011.

Comic Relief

Comic Relief is committed to supporting people living with mental health problems. The projects Comic Relief funds ensure people with mental health problems get their voices heard in the decisions that affect their lives and get the help they need to recover. Comic Relief also helps people to promote their rights and reduce the stigma and discrimination they face so that they feel more included in society. The funding of Time to Change represents Comic Relief’s largest UK grant and is part of the organisation’s long standing commitment to this issue. For more information go to www.comicrelief.com.

Big Lottery Fund

Big Lottery Fund supported the first phase of Time to Change with funding of over £20million, and in 2013 awarded the programme a further £3.6m from its Well-being programme to build on its success and work with targeted communities. Big Lottery Fund also supported the campaign’s roll out across Wales. They will be providing a further £1.1m to support the Time

to Change campaign in 2015-16.

The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes.

Since June 2004 we have awarded over £6.5billion to projects that make a difference to people and communities in need, from early years intervention to commemorative travel funding for World War Two veterans.

Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £34 billion has been raised and more than 450,000 grants awarded.

[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Opinion Matters.  Total sample size was 1,102 of parents of children 6 and over. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20-23 November 2015.  The survey was carried out online.

[2] Future in mind report, Promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health wellbeing, March 2015: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/414024/Childrens_Mental_Health.pdf

[3] Research of Headteachers by The Key, July 2015 

 

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