Mental Health Research Update

What can 12 Million Conversations tell us about Mental Health?

Ditch the Label has teamed up with Brandwatch to analyse 12.9 million conversations surrounding mental health in the UK across a period of four years.

Mental health is a topical subject right now with lots of conversation and debate taking place online; some of it positive, some of it negative.

The report looks at how mental health is being discussed online, bullying and mental health, stigma around and attitudes towards specific mental health conditions and the symptoms people are experiencing across the country. The research also found an indisputable link between bullying and self-harm and also found that the likelihood of developing eating disorders after being bullied was higher than expected.

Over 225,000 conversations about anxiety and depression also referred to bullying. This proves the harmful impacts that bullying has on the mental health of those who experience it and highlights the need for early intervention. Stigma towards mental illness is proven to stop people from accessing the support that they need. The report delves into attitudes towards mental illness conversations by analysing the tone surrounding it unveiling some interesting results.

So, what does the report say?

Key Findings:

1. We now know that bullying is a measurable catalyst for mental health symptoms and is most strongly associated with eating disorders, anxiety and body image. For those with mental health conditions, bullying increases references of self-harm in online discussion by more than 600%.

2. Lack of emotional openness may be a barrier to accessing help. Negative attitudes towards mental health and emotional expression may prevent those experiencing bullying and mental health symptoms from accessing treatment. Interestingly, UK authors have more negative attitudes towards crying than their US counterparts,

3. 77% of authors with multiple or recurring risk symptoms do not describe accessing treatment. Barriers to accessing support were particularly high for body image (80%) and chronic fatigue (76%). Overall access to care was lower in the UK than in the US (23% compared with 33% in the US).

4. Men were more likely than women to use derogatory language when discussing mental health. Professional voices, including executives, politicians and health care professionals, were more likely to discuss mental health in more neutral or constructive ways.

5.  Students and sports enthusiasts had the most negative attitudes towards emotional openness. Almost two-thirds of crying conversations by these groups were critical or pejorative in tone. By contrast, authors with an interest in the environment and animals used a significantly more compassionate tone.

6. Celebrities are driving the conversation. Stephen Fry and Richard Branson were key figures in sparking positive debate around mental health on twitter

7. The media was the biggest perceived cause of eating disorders. Comments such as “the presence of airbrushed and ‘perfect women’ in magazines” being referenced as a cause by many.

8. Anxiety and depression are more often considered to be the result of environment than a biological/neurological issue. Co-symptoms and lifestyle factors were each at least twice as prominent as ‘biological’ causes in conversations showing that many people still believe depression and anxiety are predominantly circumstantial.

9. Lack of awareness causes heightened BDD negativity. Body dysmorphia saw the largest shares of ‘anger’, ‘stress’, ‘struggling’ and ‘sad’ tones. Sufferers felt the condition was misunderstood and misrepresented in the media. Educators, health practitioners and journalists were all underrepresented, suggesting the need for further education.

10. Political events cause widespread sleep disruption. The EU referendum and the general election correlated significantly with sleep disruption in the UK.  This disruption may cause ‘trigger events’, negatively impacting those with underlying symptoms.

Get the full report here:

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Mental Health Research: What 12 Million Conversations Can Teach Us

Working with Brandwatch has given us a unique opportunity to analyse 12.9 million conversations surrounding mental health in the United Kingdom across a period of four years. We are jointly passionate about understanding the current climate and narrative of mental health and collectively will be using this research to influence culture – not just internally within our own organisations, but globally.

Mental Health Report 2017