LIFESTYLE

Majority Of People Face Mental Health Problems, With 'Two In Three Adults Affected'

'This isn’t an issue that just affects a minority.'

08/05/2017 00:06 BST

Mental health is still something many of us struggle to talk about with friends and family, let alone work colleagues.  

But a new study by the Mental Health Foundation has uncovered that most Brits (65%) say that they have experienced a mental health problem - like a panic attack or depression.

The charity suggested this is an issue that’s becoming worse, with younger people more likely than those over the age of 55 to say that they have experienced a mental health issue.

Those between the ages of 18 - 54 were significantly more likely to say they have experienced a mental health problem (70% of 18 – 34 year olds and 68% of 35 – 54 year olds) compared to those over the age of 55 (58%). 

However, it may also be the case that younger generations are more aware of mental health conditions and are therefore more likely to identify if they’ve been affected. 

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The study, launched to mark the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, lays bare the scale of people’s experiences of mental health problems.

It explores the number of people experiencing mental ill-health across a lifetime, reveals people’s levels of positive mental health, and sets out the activities people are taking to deal with everyday life.

It also showed: 

:: Only a small minority of Britons (13%) are living with high levels of positive mental health.

:: Over a quarter of people (26%) say they have had a panic attack and more than a third (42%) say they have experienced depression.

:: Women are more likely to say that they have experienced a mental health problem than men (70% of women compared to 60% of men).

:: Nearly three quarters of people (73%) living in the lowest household income bracket (less than £1,200 pm) say they have experienced a mental health problem compared to 59% in the highest household income bracket (over £3,701 pm). A substantial majority of those out of work (85%) say that they have experienced a mental health problem compared to 66% in work and 53% of people who have retired.

:: Those aged 55 and over are more likely to take steps that are known to be good for their mental health and wellbeing – including getting enough sleep, eating healthily and spending time with friends and family. 

Jenny Edwards, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: “Our report lays out the sheer scale of the problem. This isn’t an issue that just affects a minority. At some point in our life most of us are likely to experience a mental health problem.

“At the same time, too few of us are thriving with good mental health. We know that only a minority of people experiencing mental ill-health access professional support, which means that we need to redouble our efforts to prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place. 

“This Mental Health Awareness Week we want to give people some of the tools to move from surviving to thriving. The barometer of any nation is the health and happiness of its people. We have made great strides in the health of our bodies, we now need to achieve the same for the health of our minds.”  

The Mental Health Foundation has set out a five-point plan to create a thriving UK – a plan they say requires us to prioritise our mental health as much as we do our physical health.

The Foundation is calling for the introduction of a “100% health” screen – incorporating mental health screening into existing health screening programmes, a community based resilience programme, and increased funding for mental health research with a focus on prevention.

It is also calling for a Royal Commission to investigate the solutions to prevent mental illness, with a focus on reducing risk, along with a report on the nation’s mental health every year.

Commenting on the findings, Pete, who began struggling with mental health issues after losing his mum to breast cancer at the age of 19, said finding something you enjoy can help to improve your mental health.

“A few years ago I started to write songs again for the first time in a long time...it’s been amazing,” he said.

“There’s definitely this thing about flow, about losing yourself in something that’s meditative - that’s what meditation is - to have a period of time in your life where you can just concentrate on something that you feel really good about and get lost in, that shuts any voice up in your head for a period of time and gives you a break.” 

Useful websites and helplines:
  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk
  • Hobbies That Improve Mental Health