- New polling shows a third of 18 to 34-year-olds sought mental health support of some kind for the first time
- A similar percentage of 35 to 44-year-olds also sought help for the first time
- Enquiries to Priory about depression treatment were 42% higher in January 2021 than the same month last year
- Online video therapy such as Priory Connect, which can be accessed from home, has made seeking help much easier
Covid-19 may be the catalyst for a societal shift in attitudes regarding mental health.
One in three (32%) of 18 to 34-year-olds, and 31% of 35 to 44-year-olds, said they sought help for their mental health for the first time during the pandemic.
Overall, one in 10 respondents to a poll commissioned by Priory Group said they had sought help for their mental health for the first time.
The poll found that more men (12%) than women (9%) sought help.
During the pandemic, concerns over social isolation and increased feelings of anxiety and depression have become increasingly evident. Experts told the British Medical Journal that this, coupled with the increased use of services by the public, shows “there is a sense of a new normality to mental health help-seeking”.
The Priory Group, the leading independent provider of mental health services, has seen a significant rise in demand for its services. Inquiries about its private services for depression were 42% higher in January 2021 than in January 2020. There was a 21% increase in the number of enquiries about anxiety disorders over the same period.
Dr Natasha Bijlani, consultant psychiatrist at Priory’s Roehampton Hospital in south-west London, says adults in their twenties have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic – and more willing to seek support.
“Changes in attitudes to mental health have also made it more acceptable to seek professional treatment,” she says.
The Priory’s findings show men were more likely than women to seek help. Dr Bijlani says; “Traditionally, men have been less likely to seek support for mental health issues. This is probably for a number of reasons including stigma and the traditional ‘strong male’ stereotype still prevalent in our society – the idea that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness.” Because of the toll the pandemic has taken across genders, Dr Bijlani says she is “not actually surprised to learn that more men are now coming forward for the first time”.
Technology may also have played a part. During the pandemic, new ways of delivering mental health services remotely, such as Priory Connect, an online video therapy service allowing people to access mental health specialists from their own home, have become popular. It also enables people in remote areas to access world-class specialists, is affordable for many, and a useful alternative to traditional psychotherapy settings.
The poll results chime with what Dr Paul McLaren, a consultant psychiatrist at Priory’s Fenchurch Street Wellbeing Centre, has been seeing. He says that people not seeking help when they could have “has been a major problem, but it is turning around”.
Dr McLaren says unhelpful attitudes towards mental healthcare partly stem from historical prejudices; “In the past, stigma has been driven by a societal misunderstanding of mental health issues as moral failure or weakness.”
These prejudices exacerbate mental health problems because early intervention is vital. He says; “Early treatment can avoid serious consequences – whether that be the need to take time off work, hospitalization, and even suicide. Helping people accept their conditions and be aware of the signs of relapse can really improve their lifetime prognosis.”
Notes to editors
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Photos of Dr Bijlani and Dr McLaren are attached to this release
An online survey was conducted by Atomik Research among 1,002 respondents from the UK. The research fieldwork took place 12 - 15 February 2021. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code
About Priory Group
The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into four divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, adult care and the Middle East.