68% of people in Wales are hiding behind a ‘brave face’ to avoid speaking about mental health

New data reveals a concerning trend in Wales, where a staggering 68% of people are putting on a ‘brave face’ to avoid talking about their mental health during difficult times.

1st February 2024, 8.00am | Written by: Hanna

New data released on Time to Talk Day (1 February) reveals a concerning trend in Wales, where a staggering 68% of people are putting on a ‘brave face’ to avoid talking about their mental health during difficult times. Furthermore, 48% of people in Wales still believe that mental health is a taboo topic. The hesitance to talk about how we really feel is resulting in many people feeling isolated, withdrawn and with worsening mental health. 

Nationwide poll findings suggest that 54% of men feel more confident in discussing their mental health, as opposed to 46% of women. This revelation challenges prevailing notions about the stigma surrounding men's mental health, providing a surprising insight into the evolving experiences and offering a different take on societal trends within the UK.

Somaia, aged 31, from Cardiff, was diagnosed with postnatal depression in 2019 after the birth of her son. She said: “When my baby arrived, bonding felt difficult, which took me to a dark place mentally. I was constantly feeling regret, rage, and sadness from having my son. The depression stole precious moments during what should have been a truly special time in my life. Within my tight-knit Yemeni community and family, mental health problems remain a taboo subject; we mask our struggles and soldier on. Yet, concealing my pain only deepened my descent into depression.

My GP prescribed medication to me that offered no relief. I felt exhausted and knew I couldn’t carry on feeling like this, so I found support in online self-help groups. Connecting with women facing similar challenges but who were still optimistic for the future allowed me to gradually open up, discovering the transformative power of a positive mindset. I was then able to share my struggles with my husband, who was so supportive and understanding.

Today, empowered by my journey, I share my story to reach out to mothers navigating similar struggles. On this Time to Talk Day, my message is simple: surround yourself with understanding and positivity. It can change your perspective and guide you towards a path of recovery.”

Andrew, aged 45 from Talbot Green, Rhondda Cynon Taf, faced a near-death experience that profoundly influenced both his mental health and his perspective on life. Reflecting on that transformative moment, he said: “Twenty-four years ago, a severe road accident nearly claimed my life, leaving visible physical scars while concealing the enduring mental toll that persisted for decades. At the time, I was in a coma for nearly five weeks. My parents were told that I’d never walk ever again. I had brain damage, and that there was a chance of me not waking up from my coma. For twenty years, I kept my mental health struggles bottled up until I met my incredible partner Kelly, who showed me the strength in embracing vulnerability. It was hard to open up to my family, but opening up was easier than I had thought. This is because I come from a traditional, old-fashioned family where showing emotion would usually be seen as a weakness, and that ‘real men’ do not show emotion, talk or open up. My partner Kelly also made me realise that opening up doesn’t make me weak or any less of a man. 

Now, as a Time to Change Wales Champion, my mission is to inspire others navigating trauma or mental health challenges. I advocate for fostering supportive and inclusive spaces, encouraging loved ones, colleagues, neighbours, or even strangers to share their mental health experiences so that they recognise the importance of seeking the right support for their mental health.”

Censuswide conducted the poll of more than 5,000 people, which includes 1,000 respondents in Wales, as part of Time to Talk Day, the nation’s biggest conversation about mental health. Time to Talk Day in Wales is run collaboratively by Time to Change Wales, Adferiad, and Mind Cymru. Additionally, in partnership with Co-op, Time to Talk Day runs nationwide across the UK by SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and See Me in Scotland, as well as Inspire in Northern Ireland and Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in England.The partners are supporting communities across the UK to encourage mental health conversations by providing free resources, including tips on how to have the conversation, and running a UK-wide awareness campaign. This year will mark 10 years of Time to Talk Day.

There has also been improvement since Time to Talk Day was founded in 2014 – 69% of people across Wales said that they believed that mental health was taboo a decade ago, and only 26% would have been comfortable enough to speak up, showing a clear improvement in the last ten years. 

Additional nationwide findings from the poll survey suggests: 

  • The tactic of bottling up is highest amongst younger people – 73% of 16-34-year-olds and 78% of 35-44-year-olds report they put a brave face on compared to 21% of those over 75s.
  • More than half (55%) say that the cost-of-living crisis has impacted their mental health, ahead of the news cycle and world affairs (24%) and the pandemic (22%).
  • Work also takes a toll (32%), as well as relationships (26%), suggesting that things closer to home are affecting many people right now.
  • 47% of people say the pressures of the last few years, for instance, the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, have made them less likely to open up to avoid worrying others in difficult times. 

Lowri Wyn Jones, Programme Manager for Time to Change Wales, said: “The data released today is disheartening. In Wales, the picture is even bleaker as fewer people feel that they can talk openly about their mental health. The cost-of-living crisis is a major factor causing a detrimental impact on mental health across Wales. This is unsurprising considering that many parts of Wales have and continue to be the hardest hit by the crisis resulting in less available access and recourse for mental health support and the things which keep us well. There has never been more of a need for communities to come together and to create safe and open spaces to talk about mental health. This Time to Talk Day, we’re calling on the whole of Wales to prioritise asking each other and those around us how we are really doing, as only by being honest with ourselves and with others can we start to see positive change.”

Dr Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of Mind, 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. Have a conversation this Time to Talk Day.”

Rebecca Birkbeck, Director of Community and Member Participation, Co-op, said: “The research shows only a third of 16 to 24-year-olds are comfortable talking about their mental well-being. Our Co-op member owners want to help make sure that young people feel ready to speak up and speak out. That’s why we’ve been working in partnership with Mind, SAMH, Inspire and others to bring communities together to kickstart conversations this Time to Talk Day to bring hope for the future.”

For information about Time to Talk Day, including tips on starting the conversation, visit: https://www.timetochangewales.org.uk/en/campaigns/timetotalkday/

Join in the conversation online using the hashtag #TimetoTalk on our FacebookTwitter and Instagram pages. 


Note to Editors:

For more information, background statistics and interviews with anyone featured in this press release or case studies please contact Hanna Yusuf on h.yusuf@timetochangewales.org.uk  


About the research

Survey was carried out by Censuswide on behalf of Mind with a sample of 5012 General Respondents between 24.11.2023 - 08.12.2023. The data was then weighted to match national representation across age, gender and region. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

Using images

There is a collection of images on Unsplash and Getty Images which can be used to accompany mental health news stories. Journalists are advised to refer to Unsplash and Getty Images guidelines and terms of usage when downloading/purchasing imagery. Getty Images is a paid for service, however images can also be downloaded for free on Unsplash.

About Time to Talk Day

Time to Talk Day 2024 is run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and is being delivered in partnership with Co-op. Across the UK, it’s delivered by See Me with SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health) in Scotland, Inspire in Northern Ireland and Time to Change Wales. Time to Talk Day is the nation’s biggest mental health conversation. Happening every year since 2014, it’s a day for friends, families, communities, and workplaces to come together to talk, listen and change lives.

About the partners

Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, campaigns to improve services, raises awareness and promotes understanding. Find out more here: www.mind.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness is the charity for people severely affected by mental illness. We provide expert information and services, and campaign to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, their families, friends and carers. Find out more at www.rethink.org

Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives with interests across food, funerals, insurance and legal services. Owned by millions of UK consumers, the Co-op operates over 2,400 food stores, over 800 funeral homes and provides products to over 5,000 other stores, including those run by independent co-operative societies and through its wholesale business, Nisa Retail Limited.

Employing almost 60,000 people, the Co-op has an annual turnover of over £11billion and is a recognised leader for its social goals and community-led programmes. The Co-op exists to meet members’ needs and stand up for the things they believe in.

In addition to supporting Time to Talk Day 2024, Co-op colleagues, members and customers raised over £8m for Mind, the Scottish Action for Mental Health and Inspire to bring communities together to improve mental wellbeing. 

See Me is Scotland’s national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, enabling people who experience mental health problems to live fulfilled lives. Find out more at www.seemescotland.org

Time to Change Wales is the first national campaign focusing on reducing the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems in Wales. Time to Change Wales is led by two of Wales’ leading mental health charities, Hafal and Mind Cymru, and funded by the Welsh Government. More information at www.timetochangewales.org.uk

Inspire is an all-island charity and social enterprise and our aim is wellbeing for all. We work together with people living with mental ill health, intellectual disability, autism and addictions, ensuring that they live with dignity and realise their full potential. We campaign to create a society free from stigma and discrimination, with a culture of compassion that focuses on people and their abilities. Find out more about Inspire at www.inspirewellbeing.org

Change Your Mind is Northern Ireland’s regional campaign to tackle stigma and discrimination around mental health. It is funded by Comic Relief and is a joint programme run by Inspire and the Public Health Agency. For more information on Change Your Mind’s work, campaigns and support, visit www.changeyourmindni.org

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