Cumbria Times
Weekend Edition
1:00 AM 1st February 2024

North West Hiding Behind A ‘Brave Face’ To Avoid Speaking About Mental Health


Photo by Matthew Ball on Unsplash
Photo by Matthew Ball on Unsplash
New data released on Time to Talk Day (1 February) reveals the region is putting a ‘brave face’ on to avoid talking about mental health during difficult times. The hesitance to speak about how we really feel is resulting in many feeling isolated, withdrawn and with worsening mental health.

The poll of 5,012 general respondents across the UK (including 270 in the North West) was conducted by Censuswide as part of Time to Talk Day, the nation’s biggest conversation about mental health. The day is run by mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in partnership with Co-op, with the aim to spark millions of conversations about mental health in communities, schools, homes, workplaces and online across the UK.
The survey also highlights that bottling things up is causing respondents in the North West who have felt the need to put on a brave face to feel withdrawn (39%), isolated (41%) and less able to socialise (32%).

Worryingly, three in ten (30%) say that their mental health has worsened as a result of not speaking up, showing the importance of having early open and honest conversation.

Although sometimes it may feel easier to tell people we’re ‘fine’ than it is to say how we really feel, bottling things up and putting a brave face on can have a negative impact on our wellbeing. Talking about mental health helps reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. For many, talking can feel difficult, but a small gesture or conversation can make a big difference when it comes to getting support and improving mental health.

Although 43% of people surveyed in the North West say they believe mental health is a taboo subject, a reassuring 51% are comfortable speaking in some way about their mental health - if not always to the full extent. There has also been improvement since Time to Talk Day was founded in 2014 - 70% of those surveyed in the region said that they believed that mental health was taboo a decade ago, and only 31% would have been comfortable enough to speak up, showing a clear improvement in the last ten years.

To deflect the conversation, when asked how someone is, just over a third (34%) of those surveyed in the North West respond with ‘fine, thanks’, with other common phrases being ‘good thanks and you’ (32%) and ‘I’m alright’ (30%).

Dr Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“Our survey highlights that too often, we put a brave face on and tell people we’re fine when we’re not because we’re worried about being a burden during difficult times. But bottling things up is only making things worse. Talking about our mental health can help us feel less alone, more able to cope, and encouraged to seek support if we need to. Have a conversation this Time to Talk Day.”

Rebecca Birkbeck, Director of Community and Member Participation, Co-op, said:
“The research shows only a third of 16 to 24 year olds are comfortable talking about their mental wellbeing. Our Co-op member owners want to help make sure that young people feel ready to speak up and speak out. That’s why we’ve been working in partnership with Mind, SAMH, Inspire and others to bring communities together to kickstart conversations this Time to Talk Day to bring hope for the future.”

Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said:
“This survey reveals the worrying trend that at a time of such upheaval, people are pretending they are fine because they don’t want to worry others. Many are even isolating away, leading their mental health to take a turn for the worse. We all need support from other people to get through challenging times, and speaking to someone you trust can be the first step towards feeling more like yourself again. Start a conversation about mental health on Time to Talk Day, whether that’s opening up about something you’ve been struggling with, or asking someone in your life how they’re doing, twice.”

John Junior, 35 from Manchester said:
“When I was 14, a lady working in the stationary department at my school asked if I was feeling OK. I said I wasn’t, so she invited me to sit down with her to talk in private. I explained how I was feeling and told her my body had been shaking a lot recently. She said my body might be trying to tell me something and it sounded like I could be experiencing anxiety. She shared that a long time ago, she’d experienced anxiety too, so she knew what it felt like. That was the first time I’d talked about my mental health and realised I wasn’t alone. It was such a weight off my shoulders. I went away and learnt more about anxiety, and that led me to seeking support.”

Time to Talk Day 2024 is run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and is being delivered in partnership with Co-op for the third year running. Across the UK, it’s delivered by See Me with SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health) in Scotland, Inspire in Northern Ireland and Time to Change Wales. 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. This year will mark 10 years of Time to Talk Day.

For information about Time to Talk Day, including tips on starting the conversation, visit: Follow the conversation on social media #TimeToTalk.