Mental health in the mainstream

By Amanda Docherty, senior marketing consultant

Apart from career success, millions in the bank and, on appearance, coveted lifestyles, what else do Rio Ferdinand, Lady Gaga and Ellie Goulding all have in common?

They’ve all demonstrated that the power of celebrity can sometimes have a more altruistic purpose than idle gossip.

Recently we’ve seen respected and influential stars from the sports and music industries, and our own Royals, come together to elevate the conversation about mental health.

Rio received overwhelming support after his very honest and bold documentary ‘Being mum and dad’ in which he talked candidly about the difficulty of coming to terms with losing his wife and the mother of his children. He helped to open up the conversation about grief and mental health, addressing the fact that talking about feelings doesn’t come easy to men.

Lady Gaga has talked openly about overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder and praised Prince William’s #itsokaytosay Heads Together campaign in a recent video that went viral.

And just last week we read about Aaron Lennon, a football player for Everton, suffering a breakdown despite being at the pinnacle of his career.

From Ellie Goulding to JK Rowling, and from Alastair Campbell to Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, there’s no shortage of famous people who’ve shown there’s no shame in speaking up about mental illness.

But while neither gender should be applauded more than the other for being so honest, talking and coming forward about mental health is something that men seem to struggle with more.

Is the mental health problem really that big?

It’s a big problem. According to the Mental Health Foundation, two-thirds of adults in the UK admit to having suffered mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.(1)

And it seems it’s affecting younger people more – 70 per cent of 18-34 year olds and 68 per cent of 35-54 year olds compared to 58 per cent of those over the age of 55.(1)

More women say they’ve experienced a mental health problem than men but perhaps that’s because men find it harder to admit to not feeling emotionally well and deal with issues in other ways?(1)

Some alarming statistics from Men’s Health Forum could support this argument(2):

  • Over three out of four suicides are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35.
  • Men are also three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent.
  • Just over a third of referrals to physiological therapies are men.
  • 28 per cent of men had not sought medical help for the last mental health problem they experienced compared to 19 per cent of women.

Thankfully, talking about mental illness is no longer as taboo as it once was. Research from Heads Together found that nearly half of us (46 per cent) have had a conversation about mental health over the past three months.(3) And campaigns from charities like Heads Together and MIND and events like #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek are enabling progress and a positive force for the future.

Our experience

As a protection provider, we’re focused on the health and wellbeing of our customers. Our experience is that mental health is an increasingly common problem. It’s the third most common reason we see our customers claim on Income Protection.(4) And both bereavement and mental health issues are among the top five reasons we see customers use Helping Hand – a comprehensive support service that comes with all Royal London protection plans bought through an adviser.(5)

As part of Helping Hand, we work with a company called RedArc to give our customers access to a dedicated nurse service. This includes experienced registered mental health nurses who can support our customers when they’re going through a difficult time – whether they make a claim or not. Whether they just need someone to speak to or access to specialist therapies, they’ll always speak to the same nurse.

RedArc have found that around two-thirds (63 per cent) of patients referred to them for mental health issues benefit from specialist help beyond general counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or psychotherapy. In fact, one in 10 additional therapies that they recommend are for ‘non-talking’ therapies, such as massage, reflexology and acupuncture, which are aimed at improving the patient’s wellbeing as a whole.(6)

Mental health issues don’t come in one shape and size – they take many forms including anxiety, depression, stress or post-traumatic stress disorder. But they can also be triggered by something happening such as the death of a loved one, coping with a serious illness or losing a job. It’s a lot more common than we might think and it’s encouraging to see more people talking openly about it.

Find out more about Helping Hand.
Sources: 1. Mental Health Foundation, May 2017 2. Men’s Health Forum, January 2017 3. Heads Together, April 2017 4. Royal London UK intermediary protection business claims paid (1 January to 31 December 2015) 5. RedArc: Royal London Schemes Review, 2016 6. Mental Health support should be so much more than just ‘talking’ says RedArc Nurses, May 2017