I’m Fine

A couple of weeks ago the Mental Health Foundation launched a campaign called ‘I’m Fine.’ Posters are appearing in key sites in London, particularly on public transport. This was prompted by their research findings that on average we will say that little phrase 14 times a week, though only 19% of us actually mean it. To accompany their campaign they have produced this short video:

A stereotypical view of our reserved British nature would suggest that we say this to avoid opening up, and because we don’t really think that the person who has just asked how we are actually wants or expects an honest answer: 59% said that they expected the answer to be a lie. And if they got the truth, would they know how to deal with it anyway? 44% of the survey sample said they had received an answer they weren’t expecting to the question, and were surprised at being taken out of the comfort zone of ‘regular’ social intercourse.

We are famed for our reserve, but this isn’t just a British thing: if you listen closely there are a couple of distinctly American accents in the video. The point behind the MHF’s campaign isn’t that we lie to each other out of shyness, or a belief that we don’t really think that others want to know how we feel. In many cases, this unwillingness to open up is hiding a mental health problem about which we feel unable to talk. There is still a stigma around talking about mental health and the campaign is aiming to help remove that. There has been much research that has shown how we bottle up our thoughts and feelings rather than seek help, and this survey reinforces that – and also the usual perception that men are worse than women when it comes to talking about mental health issues.

To find out more about the campaign you can go here. Please do, as the site contains a wealth of useful information and tips on how to support someone in need of help – or on how to seek help for yourself if you need it. At this time of year it is very easy to get wrapped up in all the paraphernalia and excitement of Christmas without realising that there may be people we know and care about who aren’t feeling the joy. So, if you ask someone how they are, make sure that you mean it – and be prepared for an answer that may be more than a simple ‘I’m fine.’ I know from my own experience how easy it can be to kid others with that reply – and in doing so I was kidding myself. It doesn’t just have to be a casual greeting – and deserves to be much more than this. It’s worth doing that little bit extra to ensure that they – and you – really are ‘fine.’ As the survey showed, 4 times in 5 that answer isn’t really true.

16 thoughts on “I’m Fine

  1. I appreciate you bringing light to our tendency to give the short, sweet and sometimes untrue “fine” as a default response. Even as a psychologist, in the past I would often give a default response and quickly ask others about their well-being. For me, as a clinician and as an Indian woman socialized to tend to others’ needs (it is a true work in progress to realize and address the many subtle ways this happens), it is far easier to deflect. However, in being more frank, we’re modeling a healthier response and promoting awareness of mental health. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words, and for following. I’ll check out your blog too. The MHF do a lot of good work here to raise awareness of mental health issues, and I hope this campaign helps with that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on helping to raise awareness and support mental health. I’m an American and we have similar problems here both with funding to support programs and with a lack of emotional education. Americans, as you may know, are not known for being reserved 🙂 instead what I notice is a tendency towards isolation, addiction or externalizing; none of which brings true peace. I believe when people share their experiences with mental health struggles, as you are, it helps us learn how to empathically respond to each other and heal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Many thanks for your kind words. I follow many American bloggers who write about mental health issues so I know you have the same problems there. In view of your impending change of government I fear things could get worse for healthcare there! Mine is just a small voice – but there are many of us and the message is gradually gaining recognition!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing. It’s so true, I find myself doing this all the time, saying “I’m fine.” And I might not be at the time. I guess it depends on who is asking and what the situation is. Sounds like a great campaign!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like what Bernadette said….sometimes we just need to ask things in a different way. Otherwise we sound just like everyone else, and then I can see why people don’t open up. But it needs to be the right person to open up to also!
    I think that’s why it’s good to have a friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is great. Thanks for sharing about it.

    What one of the men said here made a lot of sense… people dont usually open up to casual acquaintances.

    I like blogging because we dont have to say “I’m fine” here. We can tell it as it is. But your post made me think. I guess the answer to the question “How are you?” depends on who’s asking. At least, that’s how it is for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, there has to be an element of trust between people before a more detailed, genuine answer can be given. I think that works the other way too: in those circumstances the question is more likely to be asked from genuine concern, rather than just as a meaningless greeting.

      Liked by 1 person

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