Stigma of mental health remains engrained in Irish society, reveals survey

Mental health stigma remains engrained in Irish society, a survey shows.

The findings, released today by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, reveal that only 53% of people believe that those with a mental health difficulty are trustworthy.

Almost seven out of 10 (67%) viewed being treated for a mental health difficulty as a sign of personal failure. Around one in four do not believe people would be willing to accept someone with a mental health issue as a close friend. And just one in five believe employers would be comfortable employing someone with a mental health problem.

Three out of 10 said they would not trust someone with a mental health difficulty to babysit.

Chief executive of St Patrick’s, Paul Gilligan, said today — World Suicide Awareness Day — should be used to emphasise the importance of taking more action to reduce mental health stigma.

He said recovery from mental health difficulties was not only possible but should be expected with the right support and help.

“Yet, one of the most significant obstacles preventing people accessing this help on time is stigma,” said Mr Gilligan.

He said the pilot who purposely crashed a Germanwings plane into the French Alps earlier this year had increased stigma worldwide. So-called murder suicides in Ireland had a similar impact.

But, he said, research indicated that those experiencing mental health difficulties were no more likely to commit serious crimes than any other person.

The online survey of more than 500 people also found that more than half (53%) had worked with someone who received treatment for a mental health issue.

It emerged that 63% had a close friend who received treatment for a mental health difficulty, and 43% had a family member who was previously treated.

However, almost one in 10 (9%) said they would not want to live next door to someone who previously had a mental health problem while 16% were uncertain.

One in eight (13%) would not marry someone who previously experienced a mental health problem, and appeared to be fully recovered. More than one in five (22%) said they were uncertain.

Sarah Surgenor, St Patrick’s head of communications, said year after year their survey on mental health remained the same. Over the last three years, the percentage of people who viewed being treated for a mental health difficulty as sign of personal failure had remained consistent — it was 67% in 2013 and 65% last year.

The survey showed a higher proportion of women (28%) than men (16%) admit they have been treated for a mental health issue.

And 30% of people with an annual household income under €20,000 sought treatment, compared with around 20% for all other income groups.

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