7 out of 10 UK adults think that mental health is not openly discussed in colleges and universities; whilst 1 in 3 people personally know somebody with a mental health condition.

Babylon Health surveyed 2,000 UK adults to discover their experiences with mental health, and how they think the condition is perceived in the UK.

The majority of respondents think that mental health conditions are stigmatised in schools, colleges and in universities (57%)

Mental health discussions and stigmatisations in schools and universities

72% thinks that mental health is not openly discussed in universities, which can be problematic since 1 in 20 students sought some form of support from their university’s counselling or mental health services during the 2017/2018 academic year. This means that a total of 106,899 students approached their university for help. 

Josh Krichefski, EMEA CEO at MediaCom:

“Mental health is not confined to working adults and the latest data from universities highlights that young adults are not being given enough support. University students have numerous pressures, from deadlines and dissertations to personal relationships and the feeling of leaving home for the first time. While this inquest helps to open up the conversation, it should be seen as a stepping stone to something more. Educational institutes, healthcare services, government and business leaders need to come together to protect the mental health of society. We all have a responsibility to ensure the pressures of university do not manifest in the long-term and carry over into the workplace.

“We all have mental health; it’s on a continuum. And these types of findings show that it’s even more important for businesses to commit to changing the pervasive attitudes around mental health, and to lay the groundwork that’s needed to support young people as they enter the world of work. The time for quick fixes is long gone – business leaders need to instil a mindset shift. This could be a 100% flexible working policy, a support network of mental health volunteers from within the company and line manager training that addresses a specific challenge. And this support must be available for employees of all ages and levels; from young to old, and intern to C-suite.

“Mental health support is something we need to address, together. By having the conversation around mental wellbeing we can take the first steps to destigmatising it. Only then can we create a network and introduce solutions that empower younger generations to know that it’s OK to not feel OK.”

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We asked the British public whether they ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with the following statement: 

Mental health is NOT openly discussed enough…

Agree

Disagree

...by men

84%

16%

...in British society

79%

21%

...by politicians

77%

23%

...by generation x and baby boomers (those who are 39 years old or older)

76%

24%

...in the media

74%

26%

...in schools and sixth form colleges

74%

26%

...in universities

72%

28%

...in my workplace

72%

28%

...by my family

68%

32%

...by my friends

66%

34%

...by millennials and gen z (those who are 38 years old or younger)

66%

34%

...by celebrities

64%

36%

...by women

62%

38%

When looking at day-to-day life, 74% of people think that mental health is not openly discussed in schools and colleges, 68% by family and 66% by friends.

We also asked the British public whether they ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with the following statement:

Mental health conditions are stigmatised…

Agree

Disagree

...in British society

71%

29%

...by men

71%

29%

...by generation x and baby boomers (those who are 39 years old or older)

68%

32%

...in the media

66%

34%

...by politicians

64%

36%

...in schools and sixth formcolleges

57%

43%

...in my workplace

57%

43%

...in universities

57%

43%

...by millennials and gen z (those who are 38 years old or younger)

56%

44%

...by women

52%

48%

...by celebrities

52%

48%

...by my family

52%

48%

...by my friends

49%

51%

A worrying 71% of respondents think that mental health are stigmatised by men, in comparison to women (52%).

Personal relationships are the most common cause of stress and depression

Each year 15.4 million working days are lost in the UK due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, which equates to 57% of working days annually. 

In England, 31% of sick notes handed out by GPs are for mental health conditions. Additionally, 91% of people surveyed said they have previously felt stressed, depressed or anxious.

Almost 50% of the UK adults thinks that personal relationships are the cause of depression and stress, which may be the reason why people would rather discuss their mental health problems with a doctor over phone (61%) than with a close friend (48%). 

Which of the following factors have made them feel this way in the past:

 

Personal relationships

49%

Workplace pressures

45%

A lack of sleep

44%

Loneliness

38%

A poor work-life balance

34%

Poor physical health

31%

Ill health of a family member

28%

Job insecurity

26%

Economic insecurity

25%

Housing worries

23%

A lack of exercise

20%

Technology / mobile phone usage

10%

I have never felt stressed, depressed or anxious

9%

The gig economy

7%

Other (please specify)

2%

‘Other’ factors listed include: Money, harassment and bullying, exams, violent crime, new baby, autism, divorce, death of a close relative, Brexit and infertility.  

Advice about Mental Health from Dr Claudia Pastides, a London-based GP with Babylon Health.

What can teachers look out for which may suggest a student may be struggling with their mental health?

“It’s important to remember that it isn’t always easy to tell when people are struggling with their mental health. Sometimes people will walk around appearing as though all is well, when in fact the truth is far from it.”

“Some of the signs and symptoms to look out for include: Being increasingly sad, losing an interest in life/things they were once interested in, behaving in a very anxious or aggressive way. Also use of drugs and alcohol can be a symptom.”

What can schools/universities do to support students struggling with mental health?

“Creating a culture where it is ok not to be ok and to talk openly about mental health is key. A good way to do this is by improving mental health awareness. Educating staff, parents and students about mental health problems is key. It is also very important to help to create a positive and safe school/university environment.”

“Encouraging students to help each other and be considerate of one another’s mental health should be a priority, as should promoting physical activity and good physical health, as this all contributes to wellbeing.”

“Ensuring there is accessible school/university-based mental health support is important. This can be via counsellors, school nurses or a nominated person that students can go to with regard to mental health concerns.”

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