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New figures from ITV’s Britain Get Talking parent survey conducted by YouGov

UK parents’ concerned for children’s mental health -  but many say they don’t talk to their children enough 

New figures from ITV’s Britain Get Talking parent survey conducted by YouGov

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Half of parents in the UK are worried about their children's mental health, according to a new survey commissioned by ITV, but many are unsure how to support mental wellness in teenagers and significant numbers say they don't engage in regular, proper conversation with their youngsters.

Following the launch of ITV's Britain Get Talking campaign, part of its new, five year social purpose strategy to support mental wellness, the YouGov survey figures indicate significant concern about mental health and highlight the need for more engagement between many parents and their teenage children.

Supported by ITV's strategic partner Mind as well as YoungMinds, the Britain Get Talking campaign encourages making mental wellness a priority, with regular, meaningful conversation between parents and their children an effective way to connect with and support mental health in young people.  

However, the key findings of the survey of thousands of parents showed that in significant numbers of families, parents and children do not spend time talking on a regular basis.

These include:

Over half of parents are worried about their child’s mental health [55% of all parents worry about children’s mental health, rising to 61% of parents of teens - versus 41% of parents of 0-5 year olds and 58% of parents of 6-12 year olds] with mental health seen as more of a concern than diet, fitness or hygiene [32% of all parents say their children’s mental health is the thing they are most worried about, this rises to 38% for parents of teens living at home] but over a third of parents of teens spend less than 15 minutes a day supporting their child’s mental health [36% of parents of teens living at home spend less than 15 minutes a day supporting child’s mental health]

One quarter of parents of teens don’t use face to face as their main way of keeping in touch [27% of parents of teens say they are most likely to talk to their children on phone, email or text or social messaging] and one third of all parents of teens living at home don’t have one on one time with their children every day [34% of parents of teens don’t  get one on one time with their child every day]

Nearly one in five parents of teens typically spend less than half an hour talking face to face [18% of parents of teens living at home spend half an hour or less talking face to face] with almost half spending less than an hour [46% of parents of teens living at home spend an hour or less talking face to face]

Two in five parents don’t have a meaningful chat with their teenager every day [42% of people don’t have a meaningful conversation (ie talking and really listening to their answers) with their teen every day] while roughly one in 10 parents of teens typically spend less than 15 minutes in meaningful conversation [12% of parents of teens living at home spend less than 15 minutes having a meaningful conversation with their children on a typical day]

One in 4 parents of teens agrees they are often in the same room as teens but not talking [24% net agree we are often in the same room but not talking to each other] and one in 6 parents of teens feel that they live separate lives to their teen despite living in the same house [16% of parents of teens living at home agree that they feel they live in the same house but live separate lives]

Parents are four times as likely to ask teens what they want for dinner than talk about their mental health [58% of parents of teens who live at home ask about what they want for dinner every day, versus 11% who talk about mental health - parents talk about clothes with their children as much as about their hopes and dreams] and half of all parents say they’d like a better quality of conversation with their kids [49% agree they’d like a better quality of conversation with their children]

More than four out five parents agree that having a proper chat with their children can improve mental health [64% of parents agree strongly that having a proper chat with their children can improve mental health, 58% of parents strongly agree talking and listening can build mental wellness - 84% net agree] but almost a third of parents of teens say they find it hard to make time to have a proper chat [30% of parents of teens at home say they find it hard to make time to have a proper conversation]

Only just over a quarter of all parents feel strongly confident they’d know what to do if their child was struggling with their mental health [28% agree strongly they know what to do to look after their child’s mental health] and 68% agree kids are under more pressure than ever before – rising to three quarters of parents of teens [68% agree kids are under more pressure than ever before – 76% of all teens] with 72% of parents agreeing mental health issues are rising among children

Emma Thomas, YoungMinds’ Chief Executive, said:

"While many parents do an incredible job supporting their children, it isn’t always easy for young people to tell their families if there are problems at school, on social media or in their relationships with friends. That's why it’s really positive that, through Britain Get Talking, ITV are encouraging parents and carers to have regular conversations with their children about how they're feeling from a young age. Strong relationships mean young people can share their feelings and worries more openly, with confidence that they will be listened to and understood.

"The expert advisers from our Parents Helpline have provided practical advice for the campaign’s website about how to raise difficult subjects with your children, and how you can help if you’re worried they're going through a challenging time."

Britain Get Talking was launched in the finale of Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions on Saturday night [5 October]. It is the first stage of a five year commitment from ITV to promote mental wellness with the goal of getting 10 million people to take action to improve their mental or physical health by 2023. The message at the core of the Britain Get Talking campaign is the importance of taking steps to help maintain mental wellness, with making time away from distractions for regular conversation with friends and family recommended as a simple but effective measure. 

Some of ITV’s well-known on-screen figures have shared how they engage their families in conversation, in short clips that will be seen on social media as part of the Britain Get Talking campaign. ITV worked with creative agency Uncommon Creative Studio to develop the campaign.  

Alex Beresford, Good Morning Britain

“I’m part of a busy family and as a dad I work away a lot. So, it’s really important that I find time to spend with my family and also my son, who like many kids can get lost to screen time. He loves to play on his console and he’ll stay in his room for hours on end. I’ve had to introduce some hard rules, which he didn’t like it at first. I’ve had to ban the console Monday-Friday, it’s all about school in the week. But on Friday evening I don’t mind if he goes into his room and he plays his favourite computer games with his friends online. He can play on Saturday as well but on Sunday I’ve actually banned it. Why? Because Sunday is family day and we get out and about, perhaps go for a bike ride or watch a film on Sunday afternoon.”

Tom Bradby

“Last year, quite famously I suppose, I wanted to take three months off for anxiety driven insomnia. My reason to tell you that is that if you’re suffering from anxiety or pressure, the key thing to understand is that you’re really not alone...In today’s world with our phones, hyperstimulation and social media, almost everything around us ramps it up. So, I would like to say to you two things:  one: you are not alone, you’re nowhere near as alone as you think because many people are feeling like you do if you’re suffering. The second thing is it’s so difficult to talk, I know that, it’s incredibly difficult to admit you have a problem, we’re all trained to try and cope with it. People will be much more understanding than you think, particularly those closest to you. If not them, then reach out to the wider family of the human condition. I think you’ll find many people who understand what you’re going through. Do talk, do reach out and do be honest about how you’re feeling. You’re definitely not alone.”

Julie Etchingham, ITV News:

“I think my favourite is when we all get together around the dinner table. Sometimes in the working week it can be really difficult but we try and do it as much as possible, especially at the weekends. We might have some music on and share some lovely food. It’s a very traditional, family thing to do really. You then find that your conversation starts to flow, talking about your working week, getting them off their devices, whether it’s phones or the games they’ve been playing and I have to get off my phone. We all sort of come together. Bit by bit the conversation starts to flow and then we might stay at the table and clear the dishes, have a game of cards. I find that you have to create the space really and give it a bit of time, away from all the distractions. Time to unpack stuff, have fun, sometimes a conversation is light and sometimes we talk about the heavier stuff. The main thing is that we all in each other’s space and sharing that time together. I treasure every minute of it.”
 
Nadia Sawalha, Loose Women:

“Every week we sit around the kitchen table as a family and the kids get five minutes each without interruption, which is very difficult with me as a mother! They get to talk about how they’re feeling and what is going on with them. We used to do it so all four of us would but the kids got so bored during mine and Mark’s bit that we now just do it for the kids. Joking aside, it’s actually very good because loads of stuff comes up that you wouldn’t know otherwise has been worrying them. I’m really glad that I got that tip because we do it every week and it works for us.”

Kaye Adams, Loose Women:

“I think the key thing for me is just being aware of the need to leave a bit of space in the day. We’re all so busy. You wake up in the morning and you’ve got 100 things to do, you’re rushing about and the kids are rushing about. It can be that way for days and days and days. Be conscious that you need to find some space, that is when they talk to you and pipe up. And dog walks! If you haven’t got a dog then that might be a problem but my goodness our dog walks have thrown up so many conversations.”

Mark Pougatch, ITV Sport:

“As my children get older it’s increasingly rare that all of us spend any time together. But when we do, we really make sure that we carve out some quality time together and it tends to be meal times in the evening. We say ‘put your phones away so we can talk’ and they actually say, ‘Dad you’re the worst, so put your phone away and stop checking up on everything!’ We talk about sport and anything that is going on. We talk about dogs quite a lot because one of them is normally ill. We talk about music and what they’re listening to, we might even talk about a bit of politics. Whatever it is though, it’s quality time, important time that we spend talking together.”

Saira Khan, Loose Women:

“One of the key ways I help my children with their mental health is that I just talk to them on a regularly basis. Before they go to school and when they get back I ask them if they have had a lovely day, if there is any anxiety or if there is anything they want to talk about. The key thing for me is to make sure that they know that I’m here to listen to them and help them if they do feel life is getting on top of them a bit.”

Charlene White, ITV News:

“I cook when I’m talking with my child so he doesn’t feel as if he is having a big grand sit-down with his mum, we’re doing something that we love doing, together. We talk as we’re doing it which is something that we have always done in our family. Always make them feel as if they’re doing something hugely positive by even just sitting down and having that conversation. Make them feel loved.”

ITV’s Campaign for Mental Wellness has drawn inspiration from the Five Ways to Wellbeing  devised by the New Economics Foundation with an emphasis on promoting behaviour change through small, regular actions that positively support mental health.   

Under the theme “Connect”, one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing, the initiative’s first year will set out to improve resilience in young people by encouraging positive conversations and strong, supportive relationships, an effective way of building mental health.

As part of ITV’s commitment to promoting this message, an on air campaign has now begun, which, over the next month, will see ads featuring familiar ITV faces using their silence to encourage viewers to catch up with one another at home and tune back in to their family’s story. 

The stars lending their support to the campaign are drawn from across ITV’s shows, from Soaps and Daytime to Entertainment, Factual, Sport and News. They include: Dermot O’Leary, Coronation Street’s Alexandra Mardell, Rugby World Cup pundit and former England international Maggie Alphonsi MBE, Gordon Ramsay, Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix, Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, Jonathan Ross, Julie Etchingham, Tom Bradby, Robert Peston, Mark Pougatch, Iain Stirling, Alex Beresford, Emmerdale’s Mark Charnock and Emma Atkins, Charlene White, Lucy Verasamy and Loose Women’s Nadia Sawalha, Saira Khan and Kaye Adams, Alison King, Myleene Klass and Amanda Holden.

In support of the campaign, a Britain Get Talking website is now live online - www. itv.com/BritainGetTalking and www.stv.tv/BritainGetTalking. Viewers will be signposted there for further information on the campaign and useful resources.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, said:

“We are really pleased to be supporting ITV’s campaign and to have the opportunity to help reach millions of people with messages about looking after your wellbeing. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, and we can learn to look after it. At a time when only a third of people with a mental health problem get access to any kind of help and support, it’s important to do whatever we can to help people take steps to stay well and try and prevent mental health problems developing in the first place. Encouraging families to focus on the wellbeing of the next generation is a fantastic place to start.”

Please include the following credit:   

Britain Get Talking supported by YoungMinds and Mind is part of ITV’s Campaign for Mental Wellness. For more information see itv.com/BritainGetTalking