CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Databank. Mind week survey
Mind week survey
This survey contains some of the key findings from a survey of people with mental health problems involved with Mind across England and Wales. The 550 people who responded to this survey came from all walks of life. They had a range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, phobias, eating disorders, manic depression and schizophrenia. Each year, one in four people will have some sort of mental health problem and most of us know someone who has gone through it.
The respondents were asked if anything they ate improved their general mood or has helped them maintain their mental health. Some ate comfort foods such as chocolate to help lift their mood while others ate healthy foods in the belief that it would have an effect on their mental health and physical health and vice versa. A massive 88 per cent of respondents believed in this linkage. However, although 33 per cent of people said that sweet foods helped to improve their mood this was often a short term improvement as guilt was likely to set in afterwards. Almost one in four people said that chocolate improved their mood. Lots of feelings were associated with food, such as a happy childhood, while other people found certain foods relaxing or calming. Foods which were found to have a negative effect on mood included coffee, chips, other fried foods, junk food and alcohol.
The survey asked people what had triggered their first experience of mental health problems. Family trauma such as a loss of a near relative and the break-up of a marriage or a relationship came at the top of the list. Stress at work and redundancy were another important contributory factors. For younger people examinations, the home environment, bullying at school and pressure at university were also important. For some people one major event caused their first mental health problem. For others it was a combination of factors and the build up of several events that led to the problem.
Three quarters of those who took part in the survey said that time of year had a particular effect on their mental health. The bleakest months are December and January followed by February and November. Levels of sunlight and the generally bad weather seem to be contributory causes but most of the respondents were not diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. Times of celebration when perhaps the person with a mental health problem is alone were times with particular negative effects. Depressed people in particular may feel even more depressed when nearly every one else seems to be enjoying themselves at these times of celebration such as Christmas and New Year.
Not surprisingly, certain colours had a positive effect on mood. Blue was said to have this attribute by 31 per cent of these in the survey. People also found green was calming, yellow uplifting and orange cheerful. Colours thought to have a negative effect on mood were blacks, greys and browns and shades of pastel colours used on hospital walls. Some people linked colours to good memories like blue seas while on holiday, but negative effects were linked to the colour of hospital walls when they might have been a patient.
When asked if there were any creative activities that lifted their mood many people, 39 per cent, replied "listening to music". Gardening, writing, painting and drawing were also found by some people to have a beneficial effect on mood. When asked if they felt they had developed greater insight into their spirituality, or were more "in touch" with themselves as a result of mental health problems, 71 per cent replied "yes". Many people said they had now a better understanding of themselves emotionally as they had re-evaluated what was important to them. As one respondent put it, "I feel I have more appreciation of life because I came so close to taking my own".