We are so thankful for the time and effort that OPEN members have put into contributing to our work.
OPEN's input has really helped to improve our work and has had a wide reaching impact across the Mental Health Foundation.
Below are a few examples of what we have found through OPEN's participation and how this has impacted projects.
We asked you to answer a questionnaire about body image, cosmetic treatments and mental health. Your responses helped us create the guides for our campaign Mind Over Mirror.
You suggested the types of topics that should be covered in the guidance. For instance, we explored the necessity for acceptance over trying to achieve perfection. We talked about real norms vs perceived norms in our Feeling my mind resource for young people. Part of this addressed how you frequently cited the impact of social media and cultural norms as impacting feelings about our bodies.
You also gave us some incredibly impactful quotes that brought the topic to life for us. We wish we could have shared them all in the guides but there wasn’t scope for that. Comments about feeling shame, undesirable, unworthy just really reinforced why we need to talk about body image and how much it affects our mental health. It’s a daily experience for so many people to feel despair towards their own bodies. We hope that the guidance and resources we created will be helpful to address this need, and also accurately represent the insights that were shared by you.
We were intrigued to find that almost everyone (90.6%) thought that non-surgical cosmetic treatment providers needed to be insured. In fact, there is no regulatory body or accountability – anyone at all can legally inject fillers for example, without any training or insurance required. While the product is regulated, the person providing it currently has no regulations to adhere to. This finding further strengthened the view that the public need information to make informed and safe choices. It also reinforces our aim to influence policy towards better regulation of providers of these risky but popular treatments.
You also told us that pregnancy was by far the most impactful life experience that influenced body image - it was mentioned by 77% of you who completed the survey. With our work in body image and our work with mothers (especially young mothers), this is useful to know and something we will be exploring further.
We asked you for some feedback on posters we were using to promote wellbeing workshops for first year students on a university campus. You told us what worked and what didn't and helped us review the design so they are now much more fit for purpose.
Thanks to your feedback we have:
- reduced and reworded the information on the posters
- added another way to register for sessions, not just a QR code
- adapted how they will be used - one summary poster will link to others for more information rather than having six individual posters for each workshop
- changed the the QR code so it will take people landing page for more information and to sign up, rather than straight to sign up. This page will also contain signposts and additional information, so we are able to reach more people.
- added of 'workshops' under the 'U OK?' logo to make it clear these are a series of workshop
Once the design is finalised we will share it here for you all to see.
On International Day of Action on Women's Health we asked OPEN members who are women living in England to tell us about your views and experiences, to inform our submission to the government’s Women’s Health Strategy (England) Call for Evidence.
We wanted to amplify the voices of women who are interested in good mental health for all, drawing out nuances and detail which might be lost in the government’s own very general consultation survey.
The survey was open for just under 5 days and we received an amazing 174 responses. This really shows the power of OPEN – which was less than two months old! – to rapidly draw on expertise from different kinds of people around the country. The rich insights in your responses formed the bulk of our submission to the Call for Evidence, along with evidence from our separate study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. They show the government that the protection of mental health is an issue about which many women care passionately.
The key messages from the work with OPEN were:
- Our findings indicate a strong need for a strategic approach to women’s health that integrates mental and physical health, together with the need to pay greater attention to many 'women's' health issues.
- Women recognise that a wide range of social factors have an impact on mental health. They also show the complexity of their lives, and that preventive action, support, advice and care is needed in a range of areas. One of the areas we particularly wish to highlight is the impact of trauma on women’s mental health, and the need for mental and physical health services to be trauma-informed.
- A notable theme to emerge was the combination of different pressures: there was a strong sense that women are under stress in many spheres of their lives at the same time, as well as under pressure to perform well in each of them, or to live up to a certain ‘image’.
- We also brought together findings around: experiences of seeking support, accessing information and being listened to about mental health; ensuring the health and care system understands and is responsive to prevention of women’s mental health problems; and maximising women’s health in the workplace
Since we wrote our submission, we were excited to hear that the survey findings were mentioned by Baroness Bull during a House of Lords debate on ‘Improving Women’s Health Outcomes’ on 8 July. You are really helping us to take our impact to the next level!
Read this blog post by Catherine Negus, our Research Officer who analysed you responses, for her reflections on what you told us
As part of our continued efforts to improve Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) we asked you to complete a survey to tell us your thoughts on it, how you interact with it, how aware of it you are, and what your experience of it was this year (2021).
An amazing 193 of you got back to us. In depth analysis of your responses is still ongoing and will contribute to our wider evaluation of MHAW.
The analysis so far has highlighted some key findings:
Most of you were aware of MHAW, assocaited Mental Health Foundation campaigns, and engage with it.
A lot of you mentioned your workplace, educational/training setting and/or community organisation as the main areas where you got to know about MHAW.
You told us many useful points for MHAW campaign improvement such as a more joined-up approach, streamlined, clearer targeting
You had mixed views on the lasting impact of the annual MHAW campaigns - this is something that we will be analysing in more detail for key learnings for future MHAW planning
You generally received this year's theme of nature well and recognised it as important to our overall health and wellbeing (especially in light of the pandemic as well).
You raised a number of suggestions for future MHAW focus and themes - again, we will analyse in-depth for key learning
Encouragingly, many of you thought that mental health awareness has been improving over the past 20 years. However, many of you also think that there are still not sufficient available resources for mental health out there, and the government has not done enough in this section and should do more in the future.
We asked you to review a number of our A-Z guides to help us improve them. We were delighted with your responses, you provided some really valuable feedback that we will be taking on board in our ongoing update of the guides.
Aside from your reviews themselves, we were interested to see the topics that you were most interested in reviewing. Digital Mental Health, Stigma and Discrimination, Stress, and Mindfulness were the four most reviewed guides. We were intrigued to see that these were so popular and how they reflect many current issues associated with the pandemic and the increasing use of digital technologies.
Below is a summary of what you said about each page and how we intend to shape it based on your feedback,
You felt this page was easy to understand but needs to feel less formal and more personal. We’re going to think about how to do this: we may remove some of the statistics and add some quotes from BAME people. You also noted that in the section ‘what can affect the mental health of people from BAME communities?’, we need to say BAME people are affected by the same things as the rest of the population in addition to racism, inequality and stigma.
You generally felt this page was friendly, helpful and easy to understand. You made some specific changes to the page: for example, how we refer to self-harm. You also thought we could signpost to Shout and The Mix (organisations supporting young people).
You found the tone helpful and encouraging, thought the information was useful and liked the organisations we signposted to. You told us you’d learned new ways to manage your debts and that you’d consider getting advice about your debt problems.
You said some real-life stories would help bring the page to life. We’ll aim to find some quotes from people who have had debt problems as a result of mental illness.
You generally found this a helpful and encouraging page. You suggested adding info on gut health, physical exercise and how caffeine can affect people. While most of you liked the picture at the top, some of you weren’t keen – so we’ll look for a different one.
It was clear we need to clarify what this page is about: the title was understandably unclear to some of you. We also need to make the page feel less formal and remove some of the technical language and jargon. We will add information about how to access online therapy, how it can help, and the pros and cons of it.
It was good to hear you felt this page was warm, friendly and encouraging. Some of you said you would speak to your friends more as a result of reading it and felt more confident about supporting them. However, we also heard there were too many links to other pages and too many quotes, so we’ll be removing some of both to make the page easier to navigate.
You felt this page was easy to understand, but also too vague when it comes to getting help. We’ll make it clear where to go for help if you’re at risk of losing your home, and how different organisations can support you. Thanks to those of you in particular who shared your experiences of homelessness. You let us know we need to make the page more empathetic and hopeful so that readers don’t feel alone if they’re in a housing crisis.
You liked the tone, language and page length but felt there were too many statistics – and that they were too negative. We’ll move some of the statistics to our statistics page (Mental health statistics: men and women | Mental Health Foundation), and look for some more hopeful ones to balance out the page.
I made a mistake with this page and uploaded a different version of it while it was being reviewed. This means some of you commented on the old version and some on the new one. This gave us the chance to see what you made of our changes.
You felt the tone was too academic on the old version, but warmer and friendlier in the new one. You also felt it was clearer and less confusing. You suggested adding some statistics on how mindfulness can help, so we’ll look into this. Many of you said the page prompted you to make time for mindfulness, no matter which version you saw.
You were positive about how helpful and encouraging this page is. Lots of you felt the photos only showed high-intensity activities, so we’ll switch the marathon photo to one showing a gentler form of exercise.
You also had useful suggestion: noting the importance of strengthening exercises, links to free online classes, and an acknowledgment that exercise doesn’t have to be about changing your body shape. You also suggested a note about how exercising with a disability can be difficult and frustrating at times.
You felt this page was aimed at mental health professionals rather than the general public. You also noted that it tells people what prevention is rather than how to prevent mental health problems before they develop or reoccur. We agree: we’ll be rewriting it to include actions people can take to improve their mental health.
As with our prevention page, you felt this was aimed more at people working in mental health rather than the general public. You wanted a more positive tone and some examples of what recovery can look like. You also noted it was important to say that recovery can be different for different people, and isn’t necessarily about being ‘cured’.
In general, you liked this page: you felt it was warm, friendly, easy to understand and about the right length. Some of you felt the tone was inconsistent so we’ll go through it and see where we could improve it. You also wanted more suggestions for sleep apps and other resources, so we’ll add some in.
You suggested we define more clearly what discrimination is, and separate the information into help for people being discriminated against and ways you can challenge stigma if you see it. You also thought we should add information on internalised stigma, different types of stigma, and links to further sources of help.
You felt this page was warm, helpful and encouraging. You had some practical suggestions on changes to the page: moving some sections around, being less prescriptive with our list of ways to help yourself and adding stomach problems to our list of symptoms, for example. You also suggested ways to deal with work stress such as speaking to your manager or HR, which we’ll add in.
You felt this page was too formal and not positive or hopeful enough. The statistics made the page feel depressing. We’ll rewrite it to make it sound warmer and remove some of the statistics. We’ll also add some of your suggestions: information on women’s health issues and the menopause, helpline numbers and ways you can improve or protect your mental health.
We asked you to answer a questionnaire about how to support children/young people to develop good body image, show acts of kindness and improve their sleep. Your responses helped us create guides for parents/caregivers and school staff for each topic, which we released for Youth Mental Health Day. You can see the resources in full here.
Your responses, combined with our own research, helped to form top tips for each topic. These included:
- Myth-bust the "Perfect Body" together.
- Give character-based and achievement-based compliments.
- Value health not weight.
- Be active together.
- Report adverts that encourage unhealthy relationships with the body.
- Reinforce good body image messaging through using diverse resources.
- Explore the different languages used around body image.
- Highlight the changes young people’s bodies may go through in their lives and how they can deal with these changes.
- Use lessons, assemblies, and extra-curricular sessions to encourage pupils to focus on the health of their bodies, rather than appearance.
- Provide school staff with mental health training, with a specific focus on body image.
- Start small.
- Do something they enjoy!
- Spend 30 minutes every day doing something they love.
- Praise themselves.
- Be kind to others.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Allocate time to celebrating differences.
- Create a gratitude jar.
- Set up a bulletin board or box.
- Hold kindness awards, charity events or a random acts of kindness challenge.
- Eat foods that promote sleep if they feel hungry before bed.
- Prioritise time during the day to exercise or move their bodies.
- Reduce screen time before bed.
- Create and use a sleep diary that records the timing, quality, and quantity of their sleep.
- Create a wind-down routine in the hour before bed.
- Keep living and sleeping spaces as dimmed as possible at night time.
- Lead by example and role model good sleep health in yourself.
- Have open, safe and honest conversations about sleep.
- Prioritise discussions around good sleep health in assemblies or wellbeing, personal, and social education classes.
- Encourage staff to look out for signs of sleep-deprivation in pupils and work empathetically with the pupils to understand their situation.