Zayn Malik quits One Direction: Singer praised by mental health experts for candid public admission about stress

His statement about his reason to quit the band might inspire others to talk more openly

Jenn Selby
Friday 20 March 2015 17:39
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One Direction fans were left distraught by the news that Zayn Malik had flown home from the band’s scheduled World tour appearances in Asia last week.

“Zayn has signed off with stress and is flying back to the UK to recuperate,” a spokesperson said.

“The band wish him well and will continue with their performances in Manila and Jakarta.”

His mother, Trisha Malik, told reporters at her Bradford home on Friday the singer was “fine”, while his sister, Safaa, urged supporters to “pray” for his recovery.

He has since made the decision to quit the band, leaving the four remaining members going forward together.

But perhaps instead fans should be inspired, and even encouraged, by the singer’s frank admission about his mental health.

“When you are a high profile celeb in the public eye, the stresses and strains are likely to be enormous,” Dr Sandi Mann, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Central Lancashire tells The Independent.

“Many ‘ordinary’ people think that it must be easy street at the top, but there are different pressures; living in a goldfish bowl where your every action, word, tweet and nose-scratch is observed, commented on and shared must present an enormous strain.

“It is also harder to admit you are not coping – it is hard for anyone to admit that, but when you are such a public figure, you know that the intense interest that such an admission will generate will be massive.”

“We all experience stress at some point in our lives but there are some professions which are more pressured,” Dr Georgina M. Hosang, an expert in life stress and depression at Goldsmiths University, adds.

“Being a celebrity, particularly a music artist, is a demanding career path which often requires long days, high productivity and media scrutiny. Lack of sleep and being subject to public criticism is likely to impact on one's mood and self-esteem.”

Dr Mann points out that, unlike when we break bones, catch illnesses or suffer physical illness, mental ill health is often not visible and therefore treated very differently.

“It shouldn’t be,” she says.

“Stress and mental ill health are major issues today, especially with young people. We need to teach young people to cope with stress and mental health problems in schools so I hope this will help raise awareness for young people and the general public.”

Of course, stress isn’t something that only affects the busy and famous. Research conducted by mental health charity Mind in November 2014 to coincide with National Stress Awareness Day revealed that over half of workers they surveyed said they found work more stressful than debt or financial problems, their health or relationships.

Factors frequently cited as very or fairly stressful included excessive workload (52 per cent), frustration with poor management (54 per cent), not enough support from managers (47 per cent), threat of redundancy (27 per cent) and unrealistic targets (45 per cent).

In stressful periods, it found people were more likely to turn to damaging avoidance strategies, such as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or smoking, in order to help them cope with the stress of a working day.

The research also highlighted the fact that mental health is still very much a taboo work place subject, with nearly a third of participants saying they didn’t feel they would be able to discuss stress openly with their line manager.

“We know employers are starting to take mental health at work more seriously, but clearly still have a long way to go in helping tackle the causes of stress and poor mental health at work,” Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said.

“People still don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health at work or telling their employer if they’ve been off sick with stress. Yet many staff will be affected by these issues. That’s why it’s so important that organisations proactively manage staff wellbeing, and create an open culture where their employees are able to talk about wellbeing without fear of discrimination or being perceived as weak or incapable.”

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