One in five people realise they have their own mental health problems after watching soaps and dramas featuring mental health.
Soaps and dramas featuring characters with depression, anxiety and panic attacks are helping people to realise for the first time that they may be experiencing mental health problems.
The research, carried out during the nation’s second lockdown in November, shows that in the last 12 months
- One in five people (22%) who saw a mental health storyline realised that they had a mental health problem, or had experienced one in the past.
- One in five (18%) viewers then looked for information and support online, and one in eight (12%) sought help for their mental health from a medical professional.
- The research for Mind, co-funded by ITV (2), comes in a year where TV and online viewing has surged as people have had to stay at home during the pandemic (3).
- Overall, more than half the nation (56%) had seen a soap or drama featuring mental health on TV, online or as part of a boxset – serving as a powerful reminder that what people are watching now is having a direct impact on their understanding of their own experiences
- The influence of mental health stories is even stronger among young people, with two in five (38%) of people aged 18-24 realising they had experience of mental health problems after seeing a soap or drama.
- One in five (21%) then got support from a medical professional.
People were most likely to have seen stories featuring depression, anxiety, suicidal feelings, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The storylines that improved people’s understanding the most explored suicidal thoughts and eating disorders.
With soaps and dramas prompting people to seek help, Mind is urging broadcasters to make sure that characters’ experiences of mental health problems are as true to life as possible, particularly as people struggle with their mental health during the pandemic (4) – and to feature less well-known mental health problems such as schizophrenia (5) and post-natal depression.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said:
“It has never been more important for broadcasters to create accurate, sensitive storylines about mental health.
“This year, lockdowns and restrictions have meant that people are watching more TV than ever, and a huge number of us are seeing soaps and dramas featuring mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. At a time when it’s harder to see loved ones and look after our own mental health, these stories are helping people to recognise when they’re struggling and prompting them to seek help.
“It’s clear from this research that mental health storylines are popular and broadcasters are committed to making them. We now need to see more air time given to conditions such as schizophrenia, psychosis and post-natal depression which are still stigmatised and poorly understood.”
Today Mind is sharing some of the best portrayals of mental health on screen that have helped shaped people’s understanding of mental health.
Notes to editors:
(1) All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Yonder (formerly Populus), who were commissioned by Mind and ITV to undertake the research. Total sample size was 2,070 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6–8 November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
(2) ITV co-funded this research as part of their mental health campaign Britain Get Talking, which is supported by Mind and YoungMinds.
(3) Source: Ofcom Media Nations report, published August 2020.
(4) According to Mind’s analysis of the most recent NHS figures urgent and emergency referrals of people in crisis have risen by 15% since the beginning of the first national lockdown. Mind’s own infoline has seen up to 500 calls a day to its helpline in October, twice the number it would usually see at this time of year.
(5) Source: Time to Change, See the Bigger Picture, published February 2020. Research for Time to Change, provided by showed people were more likely to say they had never heard of less common mental health problems such as borderline personality disorder (50%) psychosis (49%) and schizophrenia (35%). Research was conducted by nfpSynergy (Jan 2020): Charity Awareness Monitor| Base: 1,000 adults 16+, Britain.