Seven out of 10 people would find it difficult to discuss depression with their doctor, a survey has revealed.
Some 60% also feel there is still a stigma attached to mental illness, with two out of five people not wanting to know if a loved one was experiencing depression.
The Lundbeck mental health barometer revealed how mental health was viewed by Irish people, with almost a quarter believing depression was not an illness but a state of mind.
Dr Harry Barry, an author and Louth-based GP, revealed talking could be the first step towards recovery.
“By providing a sympathetic ear and encouraging them to get professional help they could be making a real difference in their friend’s life,” he said.
“Mental health difficulties can be very distressing, not just for the person experiencing, but for their loved ones.
“Approaching a healthcare professional for assistance is one of the most important steps a person can make in taking responsibility for their mental health.”
It is estimated that some 400,000 people in Ireland experience depression at any one time, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating it was the second most disabling medical disorder in the age category 15-44.
Symptoms may include feeling unhappy most of the time, a loss of interest in life, feeling anxious, agitated or irritable, feeling guilty, changes to sleeping patterns, change in appetite, feeling tired a lot of the time or low energy levels.
Dr Barry, a board member with Aware, warned while the rate of depression had risen during the recession it was not as widespread as many thought.
“There has been an incredible amount of toxic stress, that’s where we become incredibly stressed,” he said.
“We become very anxious, feel a bit down, become exhausted and have difficulty concentrating, but it’s not the same as depression.
“Everybody in the community is prone to getting toxic stress, but only a small percentage of the community are prone to depression.
“Unfortunately, at the moment they are being put together. If people are showing signs of being very stressed people are assuming they are down.”
Anyone in need of support can contact Aware on 1890 303 302.