One in eleven adults surveyed in Greater London (9 per cent) who say their mental health got worse during the pandemic haven’t spoken to anyone about it during this time – equivalent to around 270,000 people – according to research published today. Almost half (45 per cent) of all respondents in Greater London reported a worsening in their mental health during the pandemic. Of those who have been concerned about the mental health of someone they care about, one in five (21 per cent) say they haven’t tried to talk to them about it.
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.
Encouragingly, of those surveyed in Greater London who have talked to someone, just over two thirds (67 per cent) report at least one positive conversation, with feeling supported and feeling listened to the major reasons why it was positive[iii]. Almost two thirds of all survey respondents (62 per cent) agreed that overall, it’s getting easier to talk about mental health[iv].
Paige Ashton, 26, lives in London and works as a financial controller for a major IT company. She first started experiencing depression and feelings of dissociation at the age of 13, while her parents were going through a lengthy and difficult divorce. Paige didn’t receive any kind of support for these issues during her school years, a had just a short course of counselling at university. At 23, and having by this point experienced suicidal thoughts, she opened up to her Dad, which led to her seeing her GP and getting referred for CBT, which she has found very useful.
Paige is supporting this years’ Time to Talk Day by sharing her story. She says: “Talking about your mental health isn’t just important for everyday life, it’s also part of your recovery. It helped me understand that it’s okay to have depression. It’s okay to open up. I would say talk openly with someone you trust, as this will help normalise the conversation for you and set you on the road to recovery.
“The first conversation I had about my mental health was with my dad and whilst he didn’t necessarily have the knowledge to help me himself, it was through this conversation and thanks to his support that I sought help from my GP and entered treatment. He continues to be one of the people I speak with about how I am doing and, without him, I would never have recovered”.
Previous research by Co-op, Mind, SAMH and Inspire[v] showed the vital role of community for mental wellbeing. One in four respondents (28 per cent) to the national 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.
Champions from Time to Change Kingston, a mental health anti-stigma partnership led by people with lived experience of mental health issues and hosted by Mind in Kingston, will be in the centre of Kingston-upon-Thames handing out self-care goodie bags and using them to start conversations about mental health and wellbeing. The packs have been created by people with experience of living with mental health problems, based on the things they do to look after their own wellbeing – items include a journal, seeds and tea bags. The contents are aimed at a range of ages and interests; the hope is that the recipient will perhaps use one or two of the gifts, while sharing the rest with loved ones as a way to start a conversation about mental health and wellbeing.
Rianne Eimers, CEO of Mind in Kingston, said: “We all have mental health and we need to look after it. By talking about it we can support ourselves and others, while taking time for a little self care can work wonders for our mental wellbeing. Time to Talk Day gives us all an opportunity to reach out, talk, listen and find support and, after the last two years, this is arguably more important than ever. We know that many people have yet to have their first conversation about mental health and we are pleased to offer opportunities in our local community for people to come and take the first step. However you do it, reach out and start a conversation about mental health this Time to Talk Day.”
The activities are being supported with a grant from Co-op. 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.”