Skip to main content
scrabble type letters spelling out NEWS on a book

Young people the least confident to speak about their mental health

mental health

New data released on Time to Talk Day (1 February) highlights the extent to which young people are avoiding speaking about their mental health - and how older people are embracing the importance of speaking up. The poll of over 5,000 people was conducted as part of Time to Talk Day, the nation’s biggest conversation about mental health. The aim is to spark millions of conversations about mental health in communities, schools, homes, workplaces and online across the UK.

Seven in ten 16-24 year olds (69%) say that they feel the need to put a brave face on to avoid talking about their mental health, compared to only a quarter (27%) of over 75s. Half (49%) of young people report that the reason for this is because bigger things are going on in the world right now and they don’t wish to be a burden, whilst three in ten (30%) don’t believe that people really want to know how they are. A third (32%) say they fear being judged if they open up. As a result, they are feeling withdrawn (41%), isolated (36%) and less able to socialise (38%).

Four in ten (38%) young people believe that mental health is a taboo subject, and only a third (33%) feel comfortable speaking about their mental health, compared to 48% across all age groups, and 63% of over 75s. 

The biggest impact on mental health for young people is the cost-of-living crisis, with 48% saying it is affecting them, but social media also plays a role, with a third (36%) saying it makes a difference to their mental health and wellbeing.

  • 69% of 16-24 year olds say they put a brave face on to avoid talking about their mental health
  • 49% of 16-24 years olds say the pressures of the last few years, for instance the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has made them less likely to open up to avoid worrying others in difficult times
  • Over a third (36%) of young people say social media impacts on their mental health
  • Two fifths (41%) of young people feel withdrawn, over a third (36%) feel isolated and 38% feel less able to socialise as a result 

When asked how they are, the phrase ‘Good thanks, and you?’ is often used to deflect, by 39% of 16-24 year olds, with 35% using ‘I’m alright’ for how they feel.

Dr Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of Mind, said “Not only is the cost-of-living crisis impacting our mental health as a nation, it’s also making it more difficult for us to open up about how we’re feeling. 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.”

Dee Fatania, 23 from London said: “When I was in school and I first started to experience anxiety and depression, I didn’t understand what was happening. When you don’t understand what’s going on yourself, it makes it that much harder to talk about it. Now, I often put a brave face on because I don’t want to cause my loved one’s pain. My emotions can be so powerful and sad, and I worry sharing those feelings with someone will mean I pass that pain onto them. There have also been times when someone’s said something stigmatising because they can’t empathise with my situation, which just makes me feel worse. So often I keep things in to protect myself – because I don’t want to feel let down or hurt by someone I love.”

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.