The pressures of the last few years, such as the cost-of-living crisis, have stopped people opening up, because they fear worrying others, a survey found
"Our survey highlights that too often, we put a brave face on and tell people we’re fine when we’re not because we’re worried about being a burden during difficult times. But bottling things up is only making things worse. Talking about our mental health can help us feel less alone, more able to cope, and encouraged to seek support if we need to.” Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive, Mind
Nearly two-thirds of people in the UK are putting on a “brave” face to avoid talking about their mental health, a survey has found.
Younger people are particularly likely to bottle up their feelings, with 69% of 16-24 year olds, and 72% of 25-34 year olds, saying that they put on a brave face, compared to 28% of the over-75s.
Nearly half (47%) of people surveyed say the pressures of the last few years, including the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, have made them less likely to open up, because they don’t want to worry others.
Things that people say have taken a particular toll on their mental health include the cost-of-living crisis (52%), world affairs (22%), work (29%), relationships (26%) and the pandemic (21%).
The survey, carried out by Censuswide on behalf of the charity Mind, asked 5,012 people about their mental health. It was published to coincide with last week’s Time to Talk Day, an event run by mental health charities with the aim of sparking conversations about mental health.
Another finding was that bottling things up is causing respondents to feel withdrawn (44%), isolated (39%) and less able to socialise (35%). Nearly a quarter (24%) say that their mental health has worsened as a result of not speaking up, showing the importance of having early open and honest conversation.
Dr Sarah Hughes, Mind’s chief executive, said: “Our survey highlights that too often, we put a brave face on and tell people we’re fine when we’re not because we’re worried about being a burden during difficult times. But bottling things up is only making things worse. Talking about our mental health can help us feel less alone, more able to cope, and encouraged to seek support if we need to.”
Although the survey found that 45% of people said they thought mental health was a taboo subject, 49% said they felt comfortable speaking in some way about their mental health – if not always to the full extent. Men swere more confident talking about it than women, with 54% saying they are comfortable speaking about their mental health, compared to 46% of women. This improved with age – 64% of UK respondents aged over 75 say they are confident talking about their mental health compared to 33% of those aged 16-24.
One young person, 33-year old Ridhima Bhasin, said: “Sometimes, I feel like I can’t share about my mental health – because other people are going through so much at the moment. But I’ve realised nothing should stop me talking. We’re all affected by things differently, and it’s OK for all of our problems to co-exist. When you’re experiencing mental health problems, it can be a really lonely place. And if you don’t feel like you can speak to anyone about it, it can be even more isolating. My husband was the first person I spoke to, when I first started experiencing negative thoughts.” She added that having therapy had helped her manage her depression proactively.
Wendy Halliday, director of the Scottish mental health charity See Me, said:
“Since the pandemic, and through the cost-of-living crisis, we have consistently seen that people struggling with their mental health don’t want to burden others by speaking about how they feel. We need to challenge this stigma, so people struggling with their mental health know they are not a burden. If we keep problems to ourselves because we are worried about being judged, then this only makes problems worse. We deserve to get help, and not feel we have to tell people we are fine when we are not.”
The big surprise from this survey is that, despite everything we hear about the “snowflake” generation, young people are more likely to bottle up their feelings than older people. It is clear that the events of the past few years, from the pandemic to the cost-of-living crisis, is having an effect on people’s mental health. Mind is right to say that we need to talk – but perhaps a more important message is that we need to listen. If we want to encourage people to share their mental health problems, then we also all need to be prepared to be good listeners, offering sympathy and support.