New research has revealed around 24 million people are currently ‘self-medicating’ for their mental health

Nearly half of us are ‘self-medicating’ our mental health symptoms using over the counter medications, drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or food. The results of this latest study from life insurance broker, LifeSearch, has revealed 45% of over 16s are currently using coping mechanisms to ‘self-medicate’ current mental health issues. 60% of respondents said that they have undertaken similar behaviours in the past.

Research has revealed one in five (21%) are using alcohol, over the counter medication, or illegal drugs to try and handle symptoms of mental health issues including anxiety, insomnia and depression. What is driving so many of us to self-medicate? One in three self-medicate in an attempt to gain a sense of control over their mental health, whilst one in five say they feel as though they don’t have anyone they can talk to about their issues.

12% of us don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health in general to anyone. Just 42% of us feel as though we can speak with our partner about our mental health.

This worrying trend is backed up by recent research commissioned by mental health charity, Mind, and biscuit maker McVitie’s. Research findings suggested that despite 82% of British adults believing meaningful conversations with others about their worries and concerns is beneficial to their mental health, one in five of us spend less than 10 minutes a day having a meaningful conversation at home.

In an effort to combat these worrying figures, LifeSearch is urging people to talk with others about their issues rather than trying to cope alone. Launching their Let’s Start Talking campaign earlier this week, the company hopes to not only raise awareness of our unhealthy behaviours and get us talking, but to also highlight some of our seemingly healthy behaviours that we may be taking to the extreme. Despite 38% of us using exercise to help maintain our mental wellbeing, one in 10 of us are exercising to excess.

Emma Walker from LifeSearch shared her thoughts:

“While awareness of mental health is higher than it’s ever been, we’re seeing a gap between understanding and action. Many people don't realise that their relationship with things like alcohol, drugs and exercise can be tightly related to their mental wellness and, alarmingly, when they do they can be too afraid to talk about it.

“Often, using a coping mechanism like alcohol or drugs seems like the easy way out, however it doesn’t solve the issue at hand. Swerving meeting your issues head-on or avoiding speaking the truth can have severe long-term implications, causing heartache for our loved ones later on.

“Mental ill-health shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to safeguarding yourself and your family’s future – and it all starts with one open, honest conversation. We know that this is easier said than done, but we hope that we can inspire people to have those conversations.”

If you are struggling to talk and open up, you can find some tips to help you open up. Discover how you can talk about mental health at work, how to talk to kids about mental health, and find out more about what’s the point of talking.

If you are worried about your mental health, you may benefit from speaking to a professional. Visit Counselling Directory, or enter your location in the box below to find a counsellor near you.