This week, between 14th and 20th May, is Mental Health Awareness Week 2018.
Now in its 18th year, Mental Health Awareness Week have previously focused on how mindfulness, anxiety, sleep deprivation, exercise can impact our mental health. The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘Stress’. Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this. By tackling stress, we can go a long way to tackle mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and, in some instances, self-harm and suicide. We will look at how we can tackle stress and help improve our mental health.
While stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it often leads to depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. It can also lead to physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease and joint and muscle problems.
Information on how many people in the UK population as a whole are affected by stress is very limited. However, a recent survey found that over the past year, almost three quarters (74%) of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. The survey, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and undertaken by YouGov, polled 4,169 adults in the UK in 2018.
Here are some some other startling statistics found by the survey which was the largest known study of stress levels in the UK:
- 30% of older people reported never feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope in the past year, compared to 7% of young adults.
- 46% reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and 16% reported that they started smoking or increased their smoking.
- 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed, and 61% reported feeling anxious.
- Of the people who said they had felt stress at some point in their lives, 16% had self harmed and 32% said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings.
- 37% of adults who reported feeling stressed reported feeling lonely as a result.
- 36% of all adults who reported stress in the previous year cited either their own or a friend/relative’s long-term health condition as a factor. This rose to 44% of adults over 55.
- Of those who reported feeling stressed in the past year, 22% cited debt as a stressor.
- For people who reported high levels of stress, 12% said that feeling like they need to respond to messages instantly was a stressor.
- 49% of 18-24 year olds who have experienced high levels of stress, felt that comparing themselves to others was a source of stress, which was higher than in any of the older age groups.
- 36% of women who felt high levels of stress related this to their comfort with their appearance and body image, compared to 23% of men.
- Housing worries are a key source of stress for younger people (32% of 18-24 year olds cited it as a source of stress in the past year). This is less so for older people (22% for 45-54 year olds and just 7% for over 55s).
- Younger people have higher stress related to the pressure to succeed. 60% of 18-24 year olds and 41% of 25-34 year olds cited this, compared to 17% of 45-54s and 6% of over 55s).
Below are the Mental Health Foundation recommendations for a less stressed nation:
- Health and social care professionals should assess and address the psychological and other stressors experienced by people living with long-term physical health conditions.
- People presenting to a ‘first point of contact’ service in distress should receive a compassionate and trauma-informed response, regardless of where they live in the country.
- Government and the Health & Safety Executive must ensure that employers treat physical and psychological hazards in the workplace equally and help employers recognise and address psychological hazards in the workplace under existing legislation.
- Governments across the UK should introduce a minimum of two mental health days for every public sector worker.
- Mental health literacy should be a core competency in teacher training. This should be combined with rolling out mental health literacy support for pupils in schools across the UK to embed a ‘whole-school approach’ to mental health and wellbeing.
- The government should conduct an impact assessment of welfare reform and austerity programmes on mental health.
- More research is needed on the prevalence of stress in the population, and on how the experience of stress can be reduced at the community and societal level.
To explore the recommendations in more depth, download the full report here.
Below is a short video which explains what stress is, how it affects people and what can be done to reduce it:
See how stressed you are by taking the Mental Health Foundation’s short stress test, which uses the evidence-based perceived stress scale (PSS) – click here.
What can you do for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018?
This year the Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to run a Curry & Chaat event for Mental Health Awareness Week. The aim is simple: get together with friends, enjoy a delicious curry and raise money for the Mental Health Foundation and our vision of a world with good mental health for all. For further details of how you can get involved please click here.
For further information about Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, please click here.