10 October 2017

Today (October 10th) is World Mental Health Day. It also marks the launch of a national and international YMCA campaign to help end the stigma around young people’s mental health – #IAMWHOLE.

#IAMWHOLE 2017 is being fronted by rock band, Nothing But Thieves – who have recorded an exclusive version of the title track from their hit album ‘Broken Machine’ to support the campaign. Nothing But Thieves have first-hand experience with mental health difficulties and are extremely keen to encourage open discussions about the issue. The band’s lead singer, Conor Mason, has publicly spoken out about his struggles with mental health difficulties and how it almost lead him to quit the band. ‘Broken Machine’ is a metaphor for how you feel inside and not being able to cope with it. The song tries to convey the feeling of hopelessness but aims to leave the listener with a positive feeling and a feeling of hopefulness at the end.

Research from YMCA showed that ‘psycho’, ‘retard’ and ‘attention seeker’ were among the most commonly used words, as two thirds (66%) of young people who have seen or heard harmful words and negative stereotypes relating to mental health say it is simply part of everyday language.

More Than Words also showed that 44% of those who have heard or seen negative stereotypes did so on a weekly basis, with young people coming across an average of 33 different words and terms.

Researchers spoke to more than 2,000 11-24 year olds and found that even though nearly nine in ten (88%) young people who have come across stereotypes and negative words think they should be challenged, less than half (48%) have done so.

The damaging impact of harmful language is evident as more than half (55%) of young people who have been on the receiving end say it stops them from talking about their difficulties.

Other findings from the research report include:

  • More than four in five (81%) young people have heard negative words and stereotypes about mental health
  • 60% of young people said social media is where they most frequently saw negative words and stereotypes about mental health
  • 72% of those hearing or seeing negative language and stereotypes believe social media is the most common place for people pick these up
  • Only 30% of young people who have heard or seen stereotypes and negative language say they are used with the intent to cause harm, with the majority (79%) putting their use down to a lack of understanding about mental health.
  • 74% of young people who have heard and seen negative words and stereotypes say people must be educated about mental health to stop these, while 70% say talking about mental health will help tackle the issue.

Negative language surrounding mental health is so engrained into our everyday language it makes it almost impossible to tackle stigma if we don’t change the way we talk about people experiencing mental health difficulties.

While everyone knows how damaging insults can be, it’s the more subtle elements of how we talk about the issue that really discourages young people from speaking out. 
Most of us use words unintentionally, not realising the damaging consequences of our comments. We need to start challenging people on the way they talk and also challenge ourselves. This is why YMCA Birmingham supports the #IAMWHOLE campaign to help everyone better understand mental health and tackle stigma one word at the time.

Anyone who wants to get involved in the campaign can do so by posting an #IAMWHOLE selfie on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and text ‘WHOLE’ to 70007 to donate £3 to YMCA to strengthen the circle of support available to young people.

For more information about #IAMWHOLE and this year’s campaign activity, visit www.whole.org.uk.