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New Study Reveals Young People Want To Talk About Mental Health, But Don’t Know How

  • More than a third of Brits aged 18-24 don’t know how to raise concerns about mental health
  • Benenden Health has created a mental health check in hub to support Brits’ wellbeing

Young Brits are keen to approach the subject of mental health but struggle to initiate conversations about it with others, new research reveals.

A recent study of 2,000 UK adults by Benenden Health has revealed Brits aged 18-24 are most likely to talk about mental health, with 43 per cent doing so often or very often.

Despite it being a common topic of conversation for this age group, there are barriers for young people wanting to check in with others about their mental health.

The study, which is part of Benenden Health’s wider mission to get everybody checking in and talking about their health more, found that a third of 18-24 year olds (33%) haven’t known what to do about their concerns for someone else’s mental health in the past. A further 36 per cent admit to wanting to raise these concerns in a conversation but not knowing how to.

Shedding light on why checking in may be particularly challenging for this age group, 29 per cent admit they’ve struggled to spot signs of poor mental health in people while a quarter (25%) feel awkward speaking directly about mental health.

This lack of confidence addressing concerns about emotional wellbeing is having an impact – 28 per cent of 18-24 year olds regret not checking in on someone’s mental health in the past, which is higher than any other age group.

To help young adults feel more equipped and able to check in with others, Llinos Connolly, Clinical Services Sister at Benenden Health, has shared three tips on how to talk to the people in your life about their mental health.

1. Ask open questions

Whether you are speaking to your friends, housemates, or parents about their mental wellbeing, a good rule to follow is to try to ask open questions.

An open question is one that cannot be answered by simply “yes” or “no”. Some examples of open questions you could ask someone about their mental health include:

  • How are you doing today?
  • What’s on your mind?
  • What does that feel like?

When starting a conversation about someone’s mental health, it can be helpful to include a statement before your open question. For example, “I’ve noticed you are spending a lot more time at home than usual. How are you doing?”

These questions appear non-judgemental and naturally encourage people to reflect on their feelings, giving them the opportunity to share their feelings. On the other hand, if the person is trying to answer with short or closed responses, then don’t push them too much to open up.

2. Practise active listening

As we all know, talking about your own mental health can be really difficult and overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to show you’re truly listening when you check in on others.

There are different ways to actively listen to someone. Use non-verbal cues to show that you understand and acknowledge what is being said, such as nodding your head or making small noises such as “uh huh” and “mmm”. 

Active listeners should not look distracted, so avoid fidgeting or checking your phone when the other person is talking. While it can be tempting to look away if you are feeling awkward, it is important that if you are sat down with someone when talking to them, you maintain eye contact to show they have your full attention.

Avoid interrupting the other person as it can steer the conversation in a different direction or give the impression that your opinions on the topic are more important. Instead, allow a few seconds of silence after the person stops speaking to then ask another open question.

3. Don’t try and fix the situation

When you have concerns about someone else’s mental health, it is easy to worry about offering them the right guidance and advice. However, it is important to remember that when you are checking in with someone, you don’t have to try and fix the situation.

Your role in that conversation is to encourage someone to talk about their emotional wellbeing. You want to give that person an opportunity to discuss their feelings in a confidential manner, without interruption or judgement.

Often, people want the time and space to come to their own conclusions, so offering solutions or advice isn’t overly helpful.  Sometimes, acting as a sounding board is more than enough.

To find out more about UK adults’ attitudes towards speaking about mental health, visit the Benenden Health website.

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