A million UK adults who had problems with their mental health for the first time during the pandemic have not spoken to anyone about it

One in four UK adults surveyed (25 per cent) who have experienced a worsening of their mental health for the first time during the pandemic have yet to have a first conversation about it – equivalent to around one million people – according to research published today. The survey of more than 5,000 people also revealed that one in eight people (12 per cent) who were already struggling with a mental health problem when the pandemic hit said they haven’t spoken to anyone about their mental health since the pandemic started.

The poll was conducted as part of Time to Talk Day, a national day of conversations about mental health. The aim is to spark millions of conversations about mental health in communities, schools, homes, workplaces and online across the UK.

Time to Talk Day 2022 is run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in England, See Me with SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) in Scotland, Inspire and Change Your Mind in Northern Ireland and Time to Change Wales. It is being delivered in partnership with Co-op. The partners are supporting communities across the UK to encourage mental health conversations by providing free resources, including tips on how to have the conversation, and running a UK-wide awareness campaign.

Beverley Callard, Mind Ambassador, said: “We all have mental health so it’s concerning that some of us may have never spoken about it. From my own experience, I know how helpful it can be to talk to people who have been through similar situations. Time to Talk Day is a brilliant opportunity to support each other, simply by starting a conversation. And don’t forget, listening is just as important. Sometimes just taking on board what someone has said can mean the world.”

Encouragingly, of those who have talked to someone, almost three quarters (73 per cent) report at least one positive conversation, with feeling supported and feeling listened to the major reasons why it was positive . Almost two thirds of all survey respondents (63 per cent) agreed that overall it’s getting easier to talk about mental health .

Previous research by Co-op, Mind, SAMH and Inspire showed the vital role of community for mental wellbeing. One in four respondents (28 per cent) to the Together Through Tough Times survey said that non-judgemental spaces in the community where they could talk and listen to others would support their wellbeing. In addition to delivering Time to Talk Day 2022, Co-op colleagues, members and customers are raising £8m for Mind, SAMH and Inspire, which will fund more than 50 mental wellbeing services in communities across the UK, supporting over 10,000 people to improve their mental wellbeing.

Jess Chan-Bell, 26, is a keen crafter and passionate mental health advocate. Originally from Liverpool, she moved to Nottingham for university and is currently balancing volunteering at the Mind charity shop in Nottingham with her new job. Jess has experienced mental health problems for around 13 years and has a diagnosis of depression, anxiety and panic disorder.

Like many others across the country, Jess’ mental health has been affected by the pandemic. After graduating in September 2020, a lot of her university friends moved back home, which left her quite isolated, and covid restrictions meant she struggled to find a job. Without the structure of her studies or the security of a job, Jess felt she had no direction or purpose. By Christmas 2020 her mental health had worsened to the stage that she was experiencing suicidal thoughts and was referred to a psychiatrist.

Jess says she knew she had to do something to reach out and connect with other people – that being able to talk to others would help her mental health. She began volunteering at the Mind charity shop in Nottingham April 2021 and says that getting involved in the local community, making new friends, and the structure and routine that volunteering provided have really helped improve her wellbeing.

Jess is supporting this year’s Time to Talk Day by sharing her story. She says: “I’m a very strong believer in talking about your mental health – without talking nobody would ever know what you’re going through. When we’re happy, we can’t wait to share it with a loved one and I think that should be true for when we’re going through tough times too.”

“I have had lots of positive conversations about my mental health, but one of the best ones was last year with my mum. I had been dealing with mental health issues for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that I had felt able to sit down with her and tell her exactly what it feels like to not be able to get out of bed or take care of myself. In response she told me about her own experiences after her mum, my grandma, passed away. We laughed about the fact we have both cried over a spilt milkshake. By the end it felt like she had a better understanding of what I was going through and I felt like I wasn’t so alone”.

For information about Time to Talk Day, including tips on starting the conversation, visit: timetotalkday.co.uk. Follow the conversation on social media #TimeToTalk.

Rebecca Birkbeck, Director of Community and Shared Value at the Co-op, said: “It’s never been a more important time for us to be able to talk about how we are feeling, however, it can still be hard to speak up about our mental wellbeing. Our research has shown the vital role played by our communities in kickstarting these conversations, giving us the chance to open up whilst we are out and about. We know many people are still waiting for the right time to do that, so we’re encouraging everyone to give it a go this Time to Talk Day.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, said: “We all have mental health and by talking about it we can support ourselves and others. The last two years have had a huge impact on us all and we know that talking can help us feel less alone, more able to cope and encouraged to seek support if we need to. However you do it, reach out and start a conversation about mental health this Time to Talk Day.”

Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “It’s an old cliché that it’s good to talk, but it’s clear that many people struggling with their mental health have found it difficult to have that first conversation. The isolation many of us have experienced during the pandemic can be tough on our mental health. This Time to Talk Day we’re encouraging people to reconnect with others and start conversations which can really make a difference.”

Wendy Halliday, director of See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, said: “We all have mental health, and any of us could go through a period where we struggle. The figures show that there is still real stigma attached to opening up about how you’re feeling, and we want everyone to feel comfortable talking about mental health in a way that suits them. I would encourage everyone to take the opportunity to have those important conversations, to talk and listen, this Time to Talk Day.”

June Jones, Interim Programme Manager for Time to Change Wales said: “Unfortunately, stigma is still an issue with some people feeling uncomfortable talking to others about their mental health problems, even feeling ashamed and having concerns about being judged, and yet many people say it is a positive and helpful experience talking about their mental health as they feel more supported and less alone. This is why we are urging everyone to use Time to Talk Day as an opportunity to break down barriers and have real and meaningful conversations about mental health.”

Kerry Anthony MBE, Group CEO of Inspire, said: “This research shows us the power of talking about mental health. Over 80 per cent of people in Northern Ireland found discussing their mental health to be a positive experience, more than anywhere else in the UK. However, this research also reminds us there is still a significant degree of stigma around mental health and far too many people still find it hard to talk about how they are feeling or ask for help if they need it. Time to Talk Day gives us all the chance to refocus on the strength and importance of asking, talking and listening.”

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