The findings come from a Censuswide survey of 5,000 adults across the UK – including 1,001 in Northern Ireland – revealed today as part of the Time to Talk Day campaign.
Worryingly, the report also found that locals are not only reluctant to talk about their mental health but are experiencing increased isolation and loneliness, along with declining emotional wellbeing, as a result of such reluctance.
The research also highlighted the following points:
- Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents said that they do not feel free to talk to friends and family when they’re struggling.
- Northern Ireland is the UK region with the highest percentage of people who feel that they should put on a brave face to avoid talking about their mental health. Over seven in 10 (72%) of those polled here say that they hide how they’re feeling from those closest to them, significantly higher than the UK average of 64%.
- More than one in five (22%) suggested that their mental health has been negatively affected by not speaking up.
- Of those who did bottle things up, 41% said that doing so led them to become withdrawn and 34% said that they felt isolated. Just under a third (31%) said that they retreated from social activities and 27% felt that saying nothing had created struggles at work.
- On the topic of masking one’s emotions, 31% admitted to using phrases like “Good, thanks, and you?” to present a happy exterior to the world. This was closely followed by “Not too bad”, “I’m all right” (30% each) and “Fine, thanks” (27%).
- A majority (60%) agreed the pressures of the last few years (the cost-of-living crisis, the pandemic, the negative news cycle) have made them less likely to open up about their mental health because they don’t want to worry others during these difficult times.
Speaking about the survey findings, Inspire CEO Kerry Anthony MBE said:
“So many people here have been and are going through difficult times. While some people may find it admirable that the empathetic people of Northern Ireland don’t want to worry others during a period of global instability, it is vital to remind anyone who feels this way that their mental health is important, too.
“Talking about our mental health can help us feel less alone and more able to cope. It can help us feel able to seek support. Telling someone else how you are really doing is a great way to start turning things around for the better. It’s vital to have early, open and honest conversations and I would urge everyone to find time to talk about how they are feeling.“
Censuswide’s study further illustrated the ongoing impact of perceived taboos around mental health. It highlighted key contributing factors to staying silent, from the assumption that people don’t want to know about others’ problems (28%) to a fear of being judged or treated differently (25%) and apprehension about peers’ reactions (26%).
A large majority (68%) of people surveyed agreed that the topic of mental health was unmentionable a decade ago and 54% believe this to be the case still. In Northern Ireland, this perception exceeds the UK average (45%) by a wide margin. In fact, it is the highest of any region in the UK.
Kerry Anthony added:
“Time to Talk Day is important because the more we talk openly, the more the narrative changes and the more people will feel safe in sharing how they feel.
“We can all help challenge the stigma around these conversations, so people who are struggling know that they can confidently speak up and seek support.
“We know that, for many, talking can be difficult. Although sometimes it may seem easier to say ‘I’m fine’ than to say how we actually feel. Bottling things up is just storing up trouble and, as this research shows, it can have a negative effect.
This Time to Talk Day, we would urge everyone to open up and let someone else in – a small gesture or conversation can make a big difference when it comes to improving mental health.
“With the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive now a step closer, we need to see our politicians talking to each other without any further delays. While our message today is ‘It’s time to talk’, it must also be ‘Time for action’. We’re calling on the Executive to focus urgently on the full implementation and funding of the mental health strategy.”
Aiming to spark the UK’s largest conversation about mental health, Time to Talk Day is led by mental health charities from all corners of the UK, including Inspire, MIND and Rethink Mental Illness, all of whom are working in partnership with Co-Op.
For more information on the polling referenced above, please contact our Policy & Campaigns Officer, Matthew Coyle, on email@example.com.