Mental health stigma still rife in Irish society

Only half think those affected are trustworthy
  • Deborah Condon

Most people believe that Irish employers would not be comfortable hiring someone with a mental health problem, while just half of people believe that those with mental health issues are trustworthy, a new survey has found.

The survey of over 500 adults was conducted on behalf of the St Patrick's Mental Health Services. It shows that stigma is still a major issue when it comes to mental health in this country.

It found that just 53% of people believe those with a mental health problem are trustworthy and only 21% think that employers would be comfortable hiring someone with a mental health problem.

Around one in four think that Irish people would not be willing to befriend someone with a mental health problem, while at least two in three (67%) people view being treated for a mental health issue as a sign of personal failure.

Meanwhile, some 29% of people would not trust someone to babysit their child if that person had suffered a previous mental health problem.

"We know that recovery from mental health difficulties is 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," commented St Patrick's CEO, Paul Gilligan.

He said that the linking of incidents such as the Germanwings plane crash to mental health problems has undoubtedly increased stigma, while so-called murder suicides in Ireland have also had a negative impact.

However, he emphasised that research shows that those experiencing mental health problems ‘are no more likely to commit serious crime than any other person'.

The survey also noted that 62% of people have a close friend who has been treated for a mental health problem, 53% have worked with someone who has been treated and 43% have a family member who has been previously treated.

However, despite most people knowing someone affected, 9% admitted they would not want to live next door to someone with a previous mental health problem and 5% believe that those with a history of a mental health difficulty should be excluded from taking public office.

Some 13% admitted that they would not marry someone who had suffered a mental health issue previously, even if he/she seemed fully recovered.

St Patrick's head of communications, Sarah Surgenor, noted that this survey is carried out every year ‘in the hope that stigmatising attitudes relating to mental health issues will reduce'.

"Unfortunately year after year they remain the same despite the continued work by many organisations. For the last three years, the percentage of Irish people who view being treated for a mental health difficulty as a sign of personal failure has remained consistent. We need to start tackling stigma at its very roots to ensure people are encouraged to seek the help they require at the earliest stage," she said.

The findings were released to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10).

St Patrick's operates a confidential telephone and email service staffed by experienced mental health nurses, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Call (01) 249 3333 or email

It also operates a helpline service for young adults aged 18 to 25 years, called Walk in My Shoes. Call (01) 249 3555 or email

For more information on St Patrick's, click here



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