How often do you give an honest answer to the question “how are you”? If you’re anything like the rest of the UK, the answer is not very often.
A new report has found more than 78 per cent of us say we are fine even when we are struggling with a low mood, anxiety or other mental health problems. More than 55 per cent of respondents said this was because they did not believe people wanted to hear the honest answer.
As a result, mental health charity ‘Time To Change’ has launched a campaign, calling on people to ask twice before accepting the autopilot “fine” response.
With 25 per cent of people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem in 2018, there is clearly a need for more conversations to happen. The new initiative works because it suggests you are willing to listen.
Deian, from Bath, says the campaign would help him to talk more openly about his mental health. “My friends do ask if I’m ok, but I’d feel more comfortable opening up if they asked me more than once. When I have been able to talk in the past, it really has been life changing.”
The survey of over 2000 people found more than half of people said they didn’t want to “burden” anyone and 39 per cent said they would only respond truthfully if they were confident a friend or family member wanted to listen.
Jo Loughran, director of the charity, 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.”
How To Ask Twice
Time To Change have issued the following advice for speaking to people about their mental health.
Take it seriously. It can feel embarrassing and exposing to talk about your thoughts and feelings, especially if they’re disturbing. Don’t laugh or treat it like a joke. However strange it might seem to you, remember it’s real to them.
Listen and reflect. You don’t have to have all the answers – just listening can make a big difference. Try and show that you’re taking on board what they’re saying. You can do this by reflecting – that is, saying something simple like “that sounds really difficult”. You could also say something like “thanks for telling me”, to show that you appreciate having the conversation.
Ask questions. We worry about prying when it comes to others’ mental health, but it’s better to ask questions. It can help them to get things off their chest, and by keeping the conversation going it shows that you care.
Don’t try to fix it. It’s human nature to want to fix things, but expecting things to change right away isn’t helpful. It’s not your job to make their mental health problem go away – it’s often more helpful just to listen, ask open questions and do things you’d normally do together.