Survey shows stigma of mental health
Iveren Yongo
Last Updated: 26/04/2007

Around one in five people believe that those with mental illness should be excluded from their neighbourhoods, a survey has revealed.

The survey into awareness and attitudes towards mental health also found that two-thirds of people would hide mental problems, and that most people thought one in ten could suffer mental illness. The actual statistic is one in four.

The National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) at the Health Service Executive (HSE), which commissioned the research, has called for a more tolerant attitude toward mental illness in Ireland, and it will begin a nationwide campaign next month.

The head of NOSP Geoff Day said the survey was a clear warning that significant levels of stigma still exist. "There is a huge need to educate the people of Ireland about mental health. The reality is that many of us can, and do, experience mental health problems," he said.

"These problems can range from passing feelings of hopelessness, often in response to a negative life event, to the experience of enduring mental illness. Either way, positive change can only come from addressing mental health in an honest and open way as an everyday issue."

The NOSP reports 500 suicides a year in Ireland, and 11,000 cases of self-harm are also reported.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Health and Children Tim O'Malley said that "a fundamental aim of this strategy is to prevent suicidal behaviour including deliberate self-harm, and to increase awareness of the importance of good mental health among the general population".

The survey's revelations come in the wake of a debate held in Dublin two days ago, where a group of charities called on politicians to implement the Vision for Change strategy.

The strategy defines mental health policy and was published over a year ago, but the charities claim that, since its publication, the issues and policies have been shelved by the Government.

? 2007 ireland.comFrom The Irish Times