UK putting on a 'brave face' to avoid discussing mental health

By Kate Norris,
updated on Feb 7, 2024

UK putting on a 'brave face' to avoid discussing mental health

Research published on Time to Talk Day reveals nearly two-thirds of people surveyed in the UK say they put on a ‘brave face’ to avoid talking about their mental health

New data published on Time to Talk Day 2024 (1st February) suggests a large number of adults in the UK are putting on a ‘brave face’ and ‘bottling things up’ to avoid discussing mental health challenges because they don't want to worry others during difficult times. 

The Time to Talk campaign, organised by mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in collaboration with Co-op, focuses on ending the silence surrounding mental health, offering a platform for individuals to share their experiences, offer support, and promote awareness of mental health challenges.

Data from their recent survey of 5,000 people aged 16 and over reveals nearly two-thirds (64%) of participants don’t always tell friends and family how they are feeling when they are struggling with challenges such as stress, low mood, or anxiety. 

Half (50%) of respondents who confessed to internalising their mental health struggles did so because they were reluctant to burden others with “more significant concerns”, such as the cost-of-living crisis

The research also reveals that 18% of the respondents cited they would describe their mental health as “poor” or “very poor” at the moment and a quarter (25%) expressed doubts about their ability to confide in friends and family members if they were facing mental health challenges.

Additionally, 36% confessed to feeling worried about discussing their mental health, and 45% considered mental health to be a “taboo subject”. Even more worrying, nearly a quarter (24%) stated that their mental health had deteriorated due to their reluctance to speak out, highlighting the importance of having open and honest conversations.

However, there has been progress since the launch of the campaign in 2014. 67% of those surveyed believed mental health was a taboo subject 10 years ago, and only 29% felt comfortable opening up, indicating a clear improvement over the past decade.

Mind’s chief executive Dr Sarah Hughes said, “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.”

Speaking to Counselling Directory, member Sophie Robinson-Matthews explains that mental health is something that we all have, yet any struggle with it is largely invisible. “A conversation is a way to broach the subject of any struggles so that the person can receive help or reassurance.”

Amy Drake, another Counselling Directory member, notes that the responsibility of having conversations lies not only with individuals but also with society as a whole. “It really is everyone’s responsibility to start the conversation, ask questions, and take an interest. Not just mental health professionals and those who live through it. Workplaces, media outlets, education settings and communities could all do more to contribute to the conversation.”

Here, we explore some tools and resources that can help you to get the conversation started.

What support is available?

Not everyone is comfortable talking with friends and family about how they’re feeling. If you or someone you know is struggling, Counselling Directory provides access to thousands of qualified counsellors and therapists, specialising in a wide variety of topics and therapy types who can offer personalised guidance and support. Discover more about the benefits of private therapy.

Charities such as the Samaritans provide round-the-clock helplines where individuals can call anonymously and discuss any issues they may be facing without fear of judgement. Additionally, their self-help app allows users to monitor how they’re feeling and receive guidance on coping strategies.

For information about Time to Talk Day, visit and follow the conversation on social media #TimeToTalk.

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