People with mental health issues remain undateable for many, says new survey

New NHS campaign aims to get people talking

Fewer than one in 10 adults say they would be “very likely” to go on a first date with someone with mental health issues, according to a new survey commissioned by a leading mental health trust.

The survey of nearly 2,000 adults, commissioned by Mersey Care NHS Trust and conducted by YouGov, found that only 6% of those asked said they would be very likely to go on a first date with someone if they were aware they had mental health issues. The majority (66%) of those polled either said “Don’t know” or that they were fairly/very unlikely to do so.

The findings are part of a poll to determine the extent of the stigma surrounding mental health in the UK to coincide with the launch of Mersey Care’s Big Brew campaign, an initiative to try and encourage those with problems to discuss them with friends or family over a cup of tea and coffee.

Dr David Fearnley, Mersey Care’s Medical Director, said: “Sadly the results of this survey are not a surprise but they are important because research shows that social isolation is a growing problem.

“Studies show it can be as damaging to health as smoking while loneliness can be as harmful as obesity. This is extremely worrying because only this year a report revealed that Britain is the loneliness capital of Europe.

“We have a continuing battle to get mental health on a level playing field with physical health. This latest poll confirms there is still some way to go before we rid ourselves of the stigma that surrounds mental health, but hopefully by raising awareness of this issue we will change public perception.”

The poll also asked respondents about what they would do if they had a close friend or family member who was experiencing mental health problems. Alarmingly, over a quarter (28%) said they would be unlikely to start a conversation with a close friend or relative about experiencing suicidal thoughts, an important action in ensuring those with issues find help. A further 15% said they did not know whether they would or not.

Yet although the survey suggests there is still some reluctance to dating people with mental health issues, the remainder of the poll is more positive and indicates a slight improvement in the battle to rid mental health of stigma.

Over half of those questioned (55%) would speak to a close family member while 48% would contact a friend if they had experienced mental health issues themselves – a key factor in accessing early intervention and increasing the chances of recovery.

Most of those questioned also recognised that depression is now regarded as a real illness – a view that was not always generally shared – with 88% of those asked considering it to be a real illness.

The Big Brew campaign will be launched on ‘Blue Monday’  (18 January 2016) – traditionally the third Monday of the year when people will feel the most down – and it aims to support Mersey Care’s move to eliminate suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.

“We want people to turn Blue Monday into Brew Monday,” said Joe Rafferty, Mersey Care’s chief executive “Talking has a vital role to play in reaching out to someone who maybe suffering.

“The thing is people don’t know what to say when it comes to talking to someone about mental health issues - that’s where Big Brew can help.

“Just go to our website, download a pack and let’s get brewing. You can show your support in the time it takes to boil a kettle.”

Big Brew will also be marking ‘Brew Monday’ with events across Liverpool and further information – and how you can get involved – can be found at http://www.merseycare.nhs.uk/getting-involved/big-brew/