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How to talk about mental health with your mates, after Kate Middleton and Prince William reveal shocking stats

Prince William, wearing a suit and tie, and Kate Middleton, wearing a yellow blazer over a black top, speak to young people as they participate in a series of workshops which focus on emotions, relationships and community action
Prince William and Kate Middleton's Royal Foundation released new data on World Mental Health Day. (Getty Images)

The Prince and Princess of Wales’ Royal Foundation has revealed that the vast majority of young people worry about their friends having mental health problems, in a new survey commissioned for World Mental Health Day.

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s charity published the research as the royal couple prepare to embark on a series of events across the UK this week to highlight the importance of mental health.

The online poll found that 95% of 16-to-24-year-olds said they thought their peers were having some sort of issue with their mental health.

It also revealed that nearly six in 10 (59%) of people from this age group thought it was very important for young people to have greater awareness and understanding of social and emotional skills, while two-thirds (65%) said their mental health was very important to them.

Read more: William and Kate’s Foundation survey shows young people’s mental health struggle (PA Media, 2-min read)

How important is it that young people talk about mental health?

Although mental health has been a big topic of conversation in recent years, many people still find it difficult to broach the subject.

Georgina Sturmer, counsellor, MBACP, tells Yahoo UK that, particularly among young people who are still growing both physically and mentally, it’s crucial to keep the line of conversation open.

A group of teenagers sit in chairs in a circle during a discussion at a support group
Talking about mental health might be awkward or intimidating, but it's important to push through. (Getty Images)

“As our bodies and brains grow and develop, it’s important to look after our physical health. But it’s also extremely important to think about young people’s mental health, and to encourage them to share how they are feeling,” she says.

“This is how they will learn to seek support, to support each other and to build resilience. The more we talk, the more we learn that it’s acceptable to show vulnerability, and the more we destigmatise mental health concerns.”

Oftentimes, it might feel awkward or embarrassing to talk about mental health with your friends, especially if you don’t know whether they’re ready or able to open up about it.

But if you want to bring the subject up, think about what medium works best for you - be it an in-person chat, over the phone, via text or social media, Sturmer says. She also advises thinking about “how you want to be received” before you reach out.

“It might feel easier to send a text and wait for a response,” she says. “But the challenge with asynchronous communication is that you might be left hanging while you wait for a response, which could lead to further awkwardness or worry.”

Read more: Victoria Beckham says David was ‘clinically depressed’ after red card backlash – Where to get mental health help (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

Ways to start a conversation about mental health

There are a couple of ways you can get a conversation with a friend about mental health going. But first, you should ensure the other person understands why you’re bringing it up, particularly if you’re doing it as a way to try and support them.

“Explain that you care about them - and you’re not trying to be nosy or judgemental or rude, you are just checking in to see how they are doing,” Sturmer advises.

Two teenage girls sit on a sofa having a conversation, the South Asian girl on the left speaks and gestures with her hands while the Black girl on the right listens intently
Keeping conversations about mental health open, without judgement, is important to help support a friend. (Getty Images)

It doesn’t always have to be a really serious chat, either. In fact, with many celebrities now opening up about their mental wellbeing on a daily basis, you can use them as a jumping point for your own conversations.

“If it feels too personal to share how you’re feeling, you can weave it in with some celebrity storytelling,” Sturmer says. “Our newsfeeds are full of stories as celebrities and influencers are embracing the idea of talking about mental health. Use it to your advantage as a way to start the conversation.”

Other ways to start talking about mental health include:

Going with your gut

If you have a gut feeling that your friend is struggling with their mental wellbeing, take the plunge and check in on them.

Showing leadership

If you are open with your own thoughts and emotions, you can act as a role model for others by showing that it’s acceptable to be vulnerable and seek support.

Where can young people get support?

Sturmer says that, while friends and family can offer vital support, many people might feel they need more professional help.

In these cases, they can reach out to the wellbeing or pastoral support team at their school. There is also help available via Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and their GP practice.

“I would also recommend the SHOUT helpline,” she adds. “It’s staffed by trained volunteers who are there to listen and support you, and they can also recommend other organisations that might be able to offer support.”

Watch: William encourages mental health awareness in building site visit