More than half of Northern Irish adults are worried about the mental health of a loved one this festive season

The Mental Health Foundation shares advice on the benefits of kindness to mental health at Christmas 

More than half (58%) of adults in Northern Ireland are worried about the mental health of someone they know this Christmas according to a survey published by the Mental Health Foundation.  
 
As we approach Christmas, almost two thirds of people are expressing concern for the mental health of their children (65%).  Significant numbers are worried about friends (41%), relatives (41%), and partners/spouses (21%).   
 
Reflecting on the findings, Lee Knifton, Director at Mental Health Foundation Scotland and Northern Ireland said: “2020 will always be remembered as the year of the coronavirus pandemic – but it can also be remembered, as a time when people and communities came together to show kindness and support to one another as we faced challenges and hardships.  Our thoughts continue to be with others as more than half of Northern Irish adults have expressed concern about the mental health of someone in their lives.  
 
“It’s important that we reach out to offer and ask for support if we suspect someone one is struggling or we ourselves are having a tough time.  Loneliness and isolation can amplify our worries or anxieties and chewing things over in our heads often makes things worse.  Talking about your thoughts and feelings can help you work out what is really bothering you and what can be done about it.  If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend or family member, you can also contact Samaritans to talk in confidence. 
 
The YouGov survey of 2,109 adults in the UK, commissioned by Mental Health Foundation, also found that a quarter of adults in Northern Ireland (25%) reported that they were personally feeling anxious or stressed as we enter the festive season while more than one third (36%) said they are feeling happy, hopeful or excited about the season.   
 
Lee added: “Christmas time can often evoke mixed feelings among people and given the challenges and disruptions of this year, it is unsurprising that some people may be feeling anxious or stressed.   
 
“At times like this, it is worth remembering the power of kindness. Research shows that an act of kindness can help someone feel appreciated and has the power to reduce stress, improve mood, self-esteem and happiness. It’s a gift that has the potential to protect our collective mental health. 
 
“As a society, we have to start taking kindness seriously and acknowledge that kindness has a role in government and public policy. It will be essential in reducing the social, economic and mental health consequences of the crisis that could last for years to come.”

Five ways that kindness can help protect and improve your mental health according to Mental Health Foundation research:   

 
1. Reach out to others – Reach out to someone who might be experiencing isolation or loneliness. Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress. By arranging a phone call, video chat or posting a note or a card you can help to combat this loneliness and make a big difference to how that person is feeling. 
 
2. Give thanks Research suggests that feeling grateful, particularly in response to someone else’s kindness, is associated with greater wellbeing and an increase in behaviours that benefit others. Taking a moment to reflect back on the small acts of kindness you have received in the past, can make you feel a little bit more positive. By thanking someone you’ll give them a boost too. 
 
3. Be kind to yourself – In the Mental Health Foundation’s nationwide Kindness survey earlier this year, only two in five (41%) people in the UK said that they actively made time to be kind to themselves. If things are hard right now, prioritise some “me” time, so you can relax and reflect on how you’re feeling and how your day or week has been so far. 
 
4. Celebrate traditions – Even with the current restrictions in place there are still things you can do to keep a tradition alive while following government guidance. Whether it’s cooking a special meal or decorating the house, by maintaining these traditions you can provide an act of kindness to yourself and people close to you. 
 
5. Think about alternative gifts – This year, the thought of gifts might feel stressful due to restrictions or money worries. Making time to call someone who you might be alone or writing a heartfelt message in a card is a thoughtful gift at this time of year.  Giving your time to someone you care about, a worthy cause or donating to charity can help us feel a sense of belonging and connection with our communities. This year, the Mental Health Foundation is focusing its Christmas appeal on loneliness. The funds raised will help ensure that people have the advice and information they need to feel more connected and less alone. Visit mentalhealth.org.uk/donate-christmas-appeal for more information.
 
If you, or someone close to you, is in distress or despair, or having suicidal thoughts, phone Samaritans on 116 123 (UK); 116 123 (ROI); text 07725 90 90 90 or email [email protected]
 
The Mental Health Foundation has published a guide on how to talk to someone about their mental health and how to help in a crisis - available here
 
Kindness was the chosen theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. To see the Mental Health Foundation’s policy and research papers on the connections between kindness and mental health click here
 
Notes to editors:
 
Interviews with expert spokespeople are available on request. 
 
For further information and interview requests contact Claire Fleming in the Mental Health Foundation Press Office on 07511 076870 or at [email protected] 
 
About the polling: 
 
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,109 UK adults 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th – 25th November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
 
Regional differences: Reflecting the festive season (period between 1st December and 1st January) this year, there were some differences in feelings or worries based on locality. 
 

Feeling anxious or stressed

Worried about someone's mental health

UK

31%

54%

Northern Ireland

25%

58%

North East England

26%

56%

North West England

33%

56%

Yorkshire and the Humber

35%

54%

East Midlands

31%

52%

West Midlands

31%

54%

East of England

35%

55%

London

28%

54%

South East England

32%

51%

South West England

27%

53%

Scotland

33%

57%

Wales

33%

54%

About the Mental Health Foundation: 
 
Our vision is of good mental health for all. The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems. We will drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk. The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week