Findings released today by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day 2016 indicate that stigma is still a significant barrier which prevents people from seeking help for mental health difficulties.

The research, which is carried out annually, was conducted via a dedicated online survey with 503 adults aged 18-70 years. It has a confidence rating of 95% and a confidence interval of 4.5%.

While 29% of those surveyed report having been previously treated for a mental health difficulty, and 46% reporting having a family member who has been previously treated for a mental health difficulty;

  • 22% would not tell anyone if they were experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • 48% reported that they would not feel comfortable explaining to their boss that they needed time off work due to a mental health difficulty.
  • 72% feel that being treated for a mental health problem is still seen by Irish society as a sign of personal failure.
  • Only 30% believe that Irish people would treat someone with a mental health problem the same as anyone else.

Paul Gilligan, CEO of St Patrick’s, says;

“Ahead of World Suicide Awareness Day, it is crucial to emphasise the importance of confiding in someone and/or seeking help when in mental distress. Recovery from mental health difficulties is possible with the right support and help. Our survey indicates that over a fifth of people would not tell anyone at all if they were experiencing suicidal thoughts. The survey would suggest that one of the most significant obstacles preventing people accessing help on time is stigma regarding mental health difficulties, which is still engrained in Irish society as evidenced by our survey findings year on year, our high suicide rates, and our reactions to familicide and events such as the Germanwings flight crash. It is imperative that we as a nation stop letting stigma prevail. The survey once again emphasises the need to run public awareness raising campaigns and integrate mental health education into the school curriculum. Creating a rights based mental health service which empowers service users and ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities is also essential to this process.”

The survey indicates that;

  • 23% would not marry someone who had previously been hospitalised with depression – even if they had fully recovered.
  • 28% don’t think someone who experiences panic attacks could operate as head of a large company.
  • 22% would not trust someone who previously experienced post-natal depression to be their babysitter.

Sarah Surgenor, Head of Communications at St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services, says,

“Our challenge at St. Patrick’s is to let people know that you can recover from mental health difficulties and enjoy life. We’d encourage people to get in touch through our website or free helpline with any questions they may have about their own mental health or that of a loved one.”

Other findings include;

  • A higher proportion of women (33%) v men (26%) report having been treated for a mental health issue. (In the 2015 survey, only 16% of men reported having been treated for a mental health issue)
  • 37% of people from the lowest income group (i.e. annual household income under 20k) report seeking treatment for their mental health difficulties compared with an average of 20% for all other income groups.

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