Two in five young people don’t have the words to share how they are feeling when struggling with their mental health
New research released today from mental health charity Mind has found that two in five (40%) young people say they do not have the words to express how they are feeling when they are struggling with their mental health.
The study, which included 906 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK*, also revealed the vast majority of young people – 9 in 10 (91%) – are turning to creative outlets to help them express their feelings when they are struggling with their mental health. Over half (55%) are listening to music, almost a quarter (23%) are journalling their thoughts, and one in 10 (10%) are writing a song, rap or spoken word piece.
Nearly a quarter (23%) have had a conversation about mental health as a result of hearing or reading about experiences conveyed in music or poetry, and one in three (34%) say this helps to normalise the topic of mental health.
The figures come as Mind launches a powerful new spoken word film sharing the story of a young adult who experiences a mood disorder. The film – part of the charity’s “Speak to us” campaign – features 21-year-old singer-songwriter Lola Young. Lola performs the story of 20-year-old Haleem Clift, who appears at the end of the footage. The campaign aims to change the way we think and speak about mental health problems and encourage young people to get support.
The mental health needs of young people are increasing rapidly, with recent NHS figures showing that over 65,000 young people aged 19 and under were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in April - a 109% rise compared to the same month pre-pandemic.
Lola and Haleem joined forces to compose the spoken word piece and crafted it to reflect Haleem’s mental health problem which began when he was a teenager. Haleem, who lives in Taunton, Somerset, regularly uses spoken word to help him to express his feelings.
Haleem Clift says:
“I struggle to find words to talk about how I’m feeling every day – it never really goes away, but it has got easier over time. Spoken word helps me delve deeper. The process of writing allows me to remember things I’d forgotten and reflect on my emotions, drawing out feelings I didn’t know were there. It’s remembering and reflecting on those feelings which I find particularly cathartic.
“Sometimes you can convey emotions through poetry which you can’t through conversation. Because when you’re writing, you’re not just sharing words – you’re sharing a feeling, and your audience can feel it too. Sometimes it’s a sound, a colour or a physical gesture – like putting your hand on your chest – which can be more easily expressed in a creative way.
“When Lola and I first spoke and shared our experiences we formed a mutual connection. It was that bond that helped the process to be so collaborative. Being involved and sharing my story for this campaign has helped me to bring something into the light and has reinforced what I’ve learnt about myself and my mental health.
“The last line of the poem is, ‘Even when I’m quiet, and even when it’s loud, me myself and I, we’ve just got to stick around’. For me, that line expresses that you must keep fighting for yourself, and you have what you need to do that within yourself. It might be loud right now, you might be really struggling, or you might be nice and peaceful, but whatever your experience is right in this moment it’s ok.”
Lola Young says:
“My mental health condition is my superpower, but I haven’t always seen it that way. We all experience life differently, and this goes for our mental health too, so I know how tough it can be to find the words to share what you’re going through. But it can be transformative when we do.
“Being open about my mental health has helped me significantly. It’s enabled me to feel like there are people around me who can empathise with my experience and who are open to having a conversation about it. I’ve found this helps break down the stigma around mental health both socially and in my own mind.
“I come from an artistic family, so have always appreciated the power of creativity and in fact, it was hearing another artists’ music that first empowered me to recognise my own mental health condition as the superpower that it is. My condition not only amplifies my creativity, but it also makes me who I am and helps give me a voice to express my emotions. I want to use it to help more people to understand my condition, as well as their own mental health and in turn, allow more of us to feel understood.
“This is why it has meant so much to collaborate with Haleem and create this poem together. It really helps to meet someone with a similar experience. Haleem was so open and taught me a lot – it was a beautiful process. I’m excited to have been a part of bringing his story to life and I hope it’ll inspire others to share their own stories, in their own way, this World Mental Health Day.”
Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, says:
“After an incredibly challenging couple of years with the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, our mental health has taken a huge toll. We know that the earlier a young person can get support for their mental health the more effective it’s likely to be. But we also know that, sometimes, finding the words to say how we feel is tough. You can feel like you’re talking another language, and that one no one else understands. It can make getting the support we need, harder.
“This new research shows the power that creative outlets can have in supporting young people with their mental health, in a way that resonates and perhaps feels more comfortable than talking might do.
“Through our series of spoken word films we want these stories to change the way we think and speak about mental health problems. We’re so grateful to everybody involved in creating these powerful films.”
Haleem and Lola’s spoken word piece is the third in a series of campaign films produced by Mind and Langland agency. The other collaborations – launched in May for Mental Health Awareness Week - feature Croydon songwriter Jords, with Rohan who has bipolar disorder; and James Smith, from Leeds rock band Yard Act, with Mel, who lives with mental health problems including bulimia and anxiety.