Half of England's teenage boys don't feel comfortable talking to their dads about their mental health.

New research shows that half (49%) of teenage boys in the UK would not feel comfortable talking to their dads about their mental health (including stress, anxiety and depression). When asked why, more than a third said it was because their dad doesn’t talk about his feelings and 31% said they wouldn’t want to burden them.

The survey revealed that 37% of young men chose to ‘put a brave face on’ when struggling with mental health problems and 33% would rather keep it to themselves.

The poll[1] of 16-18 year old men is released today by Time to Change, the campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to change public attitudes towards mental health. The research, which found that a quarter of teenage boys experience mental health problems at least once a week, aims to uncover the extent to which teenage boys’ attitudes and behaviour towards mental health is influenced by their fathers.

While a high number of teenage boys consider talking about mental health with their dads to be off limits, Time to Change is highlighting the positive impact of role-modelling behaviour from fathers to sons. 70% of sons felt completely comfortable talking about their mental health when this had been encouraged by their father. The research also showed that virtually all teenage boys who were comfortable opening up to their father about mental health (98%) said that they would want to have a similarly open relationship with their sons in the future.

Time to Change is now urging all dads to talk more openly, so that if and when their sons develop mental health problems in the future, they can be on hand with support. The newly released research also offers a helpful insight into how teenage boys would like their dads to reach out. The majority of young people wanted their fathers to talk to them (57%) with others stating a preference for a less direct approach such as going out somewhere together (26%).

Over the next five years, Time to Change will introduce a targeted campaign to encourage men to think and act differently about mental health problems and be more open and supportive of friends, family and colleagues. 

For advice and tips visit: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

Keenan Atkins (18) talks about how difficult he found it to open up to his dad:

“I found it hard to open to my dad, even though he has depression himself. I have a fear that he will try to find other explanations as to why I am feeling sad, rather than depression.”

“His generation didn’t get the chance to speak about their feelings and they are afraid that in doing so they might be seen as weak. I think if he was more open with me it would be easier because it would be like we’re on the same page. It would close that gap and make it feel like less of a big deal. I am happy to talk about my experiences but he isn’t.”

Jo Loughran, Interim Director at Time to Change, said:

“This research clearly shows us that young men are taking cues from their dads when it comes to their attitudes and behaviour towards mental health. It’s promising that half of sons said that their dads are supportive but we want to encourage all dads to talk more openly so that if and when their sons do develop mental health problems, they can be more supportive of them. 

“If we can break the negative cycle of men feeling unable to speak out, we can create a new generation of men who no longer feel isolated, ashamed and unable to reach out for the help that they, and everyone around them, needs to successfully manage their mental health.”


Notes to Editor:
For more information please contact Emma Warren, Senior Media Officer at Time to Change at e.warren@time-to-change.org.uk or call 07894 915 689.

*Regional data is available

** 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 a growing movement of people changing how we all think and act about mental health problems. Our voice is stronger and louder thanks to funding by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund. Our campaign is run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and thousands more organisations have joined us to make change happen.

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

[1]  All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Censuswide. Total sample size was of 1,504 young men aged between16-18 years old. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14-17 October 2016.