Research reveals stigma around mental health alive and kicking

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Despite more awareness and openness about mental health than ever before, new research shows stigma still prevents many young people from speaking to a medical professional.

World Mental Health Day

The diverse study of 11,000 people across 11 countries ( 1,000 interviews per country from Ukraine, USA and the UK to Turkey, Croatia and Japan) found that despite seeing mental health as a greater challenge than other age groups, 44% of 13-24-year-olds reported they would feel embarrassed talking to a doctor.

When this issue is so widely discussed and events like World Mental Health Day continue to keep it at the forefront, it is discouraging that poor mental health is still commonly perceived as something to be ashamed of.

Fragility and resilience: living with a mental health condition

The primary research was conducted online between 1 and 24 August by Alligator Digital, BVA BDRC and Brand Ukraine for the third Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen, organised by Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, in September.

With the slogan, “Mental Health: Fragility and Resilience of the Future”, the study looked at the growing issue of the Ukrainian nation’s state of mental health amid Russia’s ongoing war, as well as the wider impact that financial turmoil, Covid, climate change, austerity and AI have had on mental wellbeing elsewhere. The First Lady was joined by actor Stephen Fry to launch the findings, that also showed economic conditions as one the biggest factors affecting mental health. The findings presented a mixed picture according to country, with mental health diagnoses reported in

  • 1 in 4 people in the UK, US and Germany
  • 1 in 10 in South America, Croatia, Israel, Japan, Poland and Turkey, and
  • 1 in 50 in Ukraine

The low number of mental health diagnoses in Ukraine cannot be explained by stigma or embarrassment. The country scored the least likely to associate stigma to mental ill-health, with 79% of people agreeing with the statement “mental illness is an illness like any other”. Unsurprisingly, half of Ukrainians felt emotionally worse compared with three years ago and 77% viewed war as a major challenge over the next five years.

The next generation shifting the dial on mental health

The fact that 38% of young people in the survey were concerned about worrying friends and family could explain their reluctance to seek professional help. A third also believed that it could lead to discrimination in the workplace and affect their ability to get or keep a job. More community mental health education and support services could help remove some of the stigma they feel, according to 60% of all participants.

The research also revealed some optimistic findings.  Young people may have the poorest levels of mental health, but they appeared aware of the risks to mental wellbeing caused by smartphones and social media.

The global narrative has typically been that these two factors are largely to blame for the increase in depression and anxiety that has coincided with the rapid rise of digital. But 18 to 24 year olds are far more aware than they’re given credit for, with 79% acknowledging the negative impact social media can have on mental health.

Young people are also more accepting of those struggling with mental health problems who they describe as “brave”, “strong” and “inspiring”.

The research demonstrates the clear value of events like World Mental Health Day that keep the conversation around wellbeing going. Furthermore, insights from such a diverse range of cultures, languages, traditions and global perspectives, help inform how we tackle the problem in an improved, more effective way.

1 Comment

8 months ago

The stigma remains alive through those taught and teaching it . Agreeing to it. We do not all. Harold A Maio

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