“I’m fine.” That’s the response given by 7 in 10 Londoners struggling with mental health problems when asked how they are, according to new research.
Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma campaign behind the findings, is calling on people to ‘Ask Twice’ if they suspect a friend or family member is battling a mental health issue to help them open up.
“It’s the most isolating and lonely place to be and then you realise just how many people relate,” said Matthew Williams, 44, from Middlesborough (pictured above).
He added: “It was horrendous, my head was pounding like it was in a vice, my temples buzzed, and I would sweat and shake and couldn’t sleep.
“One word that summed it up: terror, I was terrified to face anyone and anything.”
Matthew has lived with depression and anxiety for more than a decade.
His first bout of depression was in 2006, shortly after his wife miscarried with their first child on New Years Day, a time which he describes as horrendous.
He said that at the time friends really didn’t know what to do and that people around him could have dealt with things better.
The campaign highlights that asking ‘How are you?’ can lead to throwaway small talk and simply repeating the question with interest may help people talk about their issues.
In the national survey of 2,000 people, when asked why people said they were ‘fine’ half of respondents in London said, ‘just because people ask how you are, doesn’t mean they really want to know’ and 50% said ‘I don’t want to burden people’.
This is a sentiment Matthew acknowledged: “You don’t want to put people in a position with something they can’t do anything with.
“At times I really did feel on my own, it’s important people check in and knowing they still care.”
Matthew now works for England Boxing and leads on work around mental health, supporting the 1 in 4 people living with a mental health problem in a given year.
Director of Time to Change, Jo Loughran, said: “We all hear it dozens of times a day: ‘How are you?’ ‘Fine thanks, how are you?’
“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.”
For more information visit: www.time-to-change.org.uk/asktwice
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