The mental health charity Mind Cymru has today (Thursday 14 December) released research suggesting that two in five people (43%) in Wales are too embarrassed to admit they are lonely at Christmas. The general population poll¹ of 2,051 people also found that well over a third of people (38%) in Wales would not feel able to ask for help at Christmas if they were struggling emotionally. This was by far the highest in the country and almost double other areas. Mind Cymru is calling on people to donate to their Christmas Appeal at mind.org.uk/christmas to help the charity make sure nobody has to cope alone this Christmas.
The effects of not feeling able to reach out for support for your emotional wellbeing at Christmas can be potentially devastating and almost one in seven people in Wales admitted that they have considered taking their own lives because of the festive period (14%), joint highest in the UK with the East Midlands. One in ten people in Wales (11%) also consider harming themselves because of the festive period.
Looking at the national picture, although loneliness is often associated with older people, the age group most likely to say they feel embarrassed to admit that they’re lonely at Christmas is 18 to 24 year olds (45%) with people aged 65 and over actually least likely to say they felt embarrassed (29%).
Two in five people (38%) also said they would be less likely to talk about their mental health to loved ones at Christmas time. Women were more likely to feel this at over two fifths (45%) compared to less than a third of men (31%). Although it is not necessarily women who come off worse over the festive period, there is often one person in the house who coordinates the day and a lot can fall on their shoulders, easily leading to increased feelings of stress and anxiety.
Perhaps another reflection of this can be seen in the fact that women were also slightly more likely than men to say they feel lonely at Christmas even when surrounded by family with 15% compared to 12% of men.
Compounding this is the fact that one in five people (22%) say when they are sad or upset they feel like they have nowhere to turn to for support. Most worryingly, however, is that this rises to almost half (49%) in people currently experiencing mental health problems.
The consequences can be devastating and the number of people currently living with a mental health problem who consider taking their own lives directly because of the festive period is double the national average (20%) with those considering self-harming in response to the festive period similarly high (23%).
Becky Gore, 30, from Swansea, experiences panic attacks and depression. She used Mind’s online information services when she felt she had nowhere else to turn and credits it with saving her life: “The Mind website has been a vital lifeline to me during my darkest moments. In the middle of the night, when all my friends are asleep and their phones are switched off the Mind website has just been there for me. On a couple of occasions, the Mind website has actually saved my life. I've been close to ending my life and just reading a story on the website of somebody in a similar situation has given me a small glimmer of hope, to keep going... to try again the next day... to choose hope, despite the darkness.”
Susan O’Leary, Head of Operations for Mind Cymru, said: “Although for many people Christmas is a time of festivity, it can bring its challenges and for some people it can accentuate feelings of loneliness which can really impact on our mental health. If you’re already struggling under the emotional toll of the festive period, not feeling able to reach out for support can leave you thinking that there’s nowhere to turn. That’s why Mind Cymru is here. We can ensure that everyone has the support they need, whether through our Infoline, free digital guides on coping at Christmas, or our online peer support community Elefriends. We can’t provide these without your support, so please donate to our Christmas Appeal to help us make sure nobody has to cope alone this Christmas.”
¹ Polling was conducted by Populus who interviewed 2,051 GB adults 18+ online between 1 and 2 November 2017, including 108 people from Wales. The data excludes responses where a person preferred not to answer a particular question or for whom the questions were not applicable.