Almost three-quarters of people in London would say they are ‘fine’ even if they are struggling with mental health problems, according to new statistics.
A survey of over 2,000 people, carried out by mental health campaign group Time to Change, showed that asking ‘How are you?’ often leads to a meaningless exchange.
The organisation is launching a new campaign encouraging people to do more if they suspect friends, family or colleagues are struggling with their mental health. The ‘Ask Twice’ project aims to foster greater openness surrounding mental health issues.
Time to Change director Jo Loughran said: “Our research shows that, as a nation, we find it hard to answer honestly. This could mean someone close to you is struggling with their mental health – they might just be waiting for your cue to talk about it.”
“Asking twice is a simple, effective way to show our friends and family members that we are asking for real; that we are ready to listen, whether that’s now or whenever they’re ready.”
The research indicates we are reluctant to talk openly because we doubt whether people want to hear an honest answer. Half of respondents also stated they did not want to burden others.
James Martin, 48, has experienced depression and anxiety. He said: “I’ve pretended to be fine when I’m not more times than I can remember. It’s been very difficult coming to terms with my depression and anxiety, but what I’ve found most helpful is talking about it and having supportive people around me.”
“Just the simple action of really asking people how they are, more than once if necessary, can make a world of difference to their day – or week, or even whole life.”
Although the stigma surrounding mental health has reduced in recent years, many people remain unsure how to provide practical support for others. Roughly one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year.