I’m not normal! What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel like this? Why am I having these weird thoughts?
These are statements I hear all the time in the therapy room (and, in the spirit of honesty, in my own head!). When you are struggling with your own emotional turmoil it can be difficult to fully believe the fact that there is no such thing as normal. In times of difficulty, feelings of shame and self-loathing can amplify our painful thoughts and self-criticism, leaving us feeling pretty wretched.
Discover You’re Not Alone
As a psychotherapist, I commonly use surveys with my clients to helps clarify or challenge any deeply held unhelpful beliefs. For example, if a client has a belief that nobody else has unsettling or intrusive thoughts, we might put together a questionnaire to ask other people if they ever experience them and if they do what they do about them.
With World Mental Health Day approaching, I decided to compile and share the results of a simple survey of my own to help get a sense of people’s experiences of mental wellbeing and illness.
Mental Wellbeing Survey – the Respondents
The initial responses I received were predominately female, a reflection of the female tendency to be more open about these things, perhaps. After a bit of prodding on social media, the ratio of female to male respondents evened out a little resulting in a 67% female 33% male split.
The results show some interesting insights into how men and women deal with their own mental wellbeing and that of people close to them.
Improving Your Mental Wellbeing With Counselling
When asked about their overall mental and emotional health over the past month, the majority of the respondents of the survey said they would rate it as excellent or very good. There was of course a wide range of answers from the respondents, with about 30% rating their feelings as fair or poor as well. Even though some people mentioned that they struggle with anxiety, situational pressure or up and down moods, most people could say they were content with how they were feeling.
This is especially interesting when paired with the fact over half the respondents have suffered from a mental health issue at some point, and of them, nearly three quarters had had some form of counselling.
Something that weighs on a lot of people’s minds is work-life balance. If we don’t feel get the right balance between work, rest and play in our lives, it can cause stress and have a real impact on mental wellbeing. For men and women, the results showed a similar amount (33% and 38% respectively) would like to improve the balance in their lives.
Although the survey showed that in the main, men and women have similar feelings about their own mental health and the lack of balance in their lives, it was noticeable that 70% of women would consider seeing a psychotherapist if they were to find themselves suffering with their mental health, compared to 52% of men.
Recognising and Supporting Friends’ Mental Wellbeing
It’s one thing being aware of (and finding ways to improve) your own mental wellbeing, but knowing when and how to help others in need of support with their mental health can be challenging. Even if you’ve sought help from friends, family, or a professional for yourself, it can be hard to talk to friends about doing the same thing.
The results of the survey show that less than 20% of men say they know how to support a friend who may be suffering with their mental health. This rises to 36% of the women respondents.
Just as how I saw that it was tricky to encourage more men to complete the survey itself, we can assume that if men aren’t as comfortable being open about their own feelings, this would also be the same when checking in with their friends.
How To Help Friends With Mental Health Issues
I asked the survey respondents if there was anything they wanted to know more about when it comes to mental wellbeing, and something that came up was a need for more information on how to support others.
As we’ve found, for men especially, this can be a difficult thing. So here’s some simple tips to follow when you want to do more to help a friend in need.
- Look for the signs – if you notice that your friend is suddenly more withdrawn or has other changes in their behaviour, there could be a mental wellbeing issue behind it.
- Make time to talk – no one can deny that talking about mental health issues can be challenging, and your friend’s feelings and worries won’t come out with just a simple “how are you?”. Make time to sit down with your friend and just talk, in a safe and comfortable space. Men usually find it easier to talk about emotions while distracted by an activity, so going for a walk, or a round of golf can be a good way to start the conversation.
- Listen, don’t try to solve – by asking open-ended questions and giving your friend lots of time to answer, you’ll learn more about what’s troubling them.
- Use technology – the odd text to check in can really help someone feel connected and remind them that there are people thinking about them.
- Suggest professional help – it’s always a good idea to suggest professional counselling. Your job as a friend is to listen and support, not to diagnose or try to fix the problems.
- You’re not alone – it can be difficult to take on the burden of someone else’s mental health issues, especially when it’s someone close to you. Know that you’re not in this alone, there are organisations and support groups to help you as well.
Mind has some great tips for supporting friends and family members on dozens of different mental health concerns when you can learn more about how to help.