Half of those suffering with mental health difficulties will not seek help due to stigma, survey finds

Despite 92% of respondents accepting mental health difficulties can ‘affect anyone’, many reported feelings of self-stigma

Half of people suffering with mental-health difficulties in Ireland will not seek help due to stigma or embarrassment, a new survey has found.

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ Annual Stigma and Attitudes to Mental Health Survey found that despite 92 per cent of respondents accepting that mental health difficulties can “affect anyone”, many reported feelings of self-stigma. The survey had a nationally representative sample population of 800 adults.

Paul Gilligan, chief executive of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services said that “self-stigma occurs when negative stereotypes about mental health are internalised, affecting a person’s self-esteem and reducing their likelihood to engage with the supports needed to recover.

“Over the last number of years, significant progress has been made in improving attitudes and awareness of mental health and to reduce stigma on a societal level. It is now time for us all to look inward and challenge how we feel and think about our own mental health and to address any personal stigma that may exist.”

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A significant 22 per cent of respondents would consider it “a sign of weakness” if they sough help for a mental health difficulty – but only 9 per cent would think the same of a friend who sought help for an issue.

In last year’s survey, the amount of people who considered seeking help for their mental health issue a weakness also stood at 22 per cent.

Of those who responded to the survey, 51 per cent reported having experienced a mental health difficulty. “Women and those aged under 35 are more likely to report experience of a mental health difficulties while men and the over 55s are less likely to do so,” the survey reported.

The survey reported that 56 per cent of those who experienced difficulties received treatment.

In 2022, 39 per cent of respondents to the attitudes survey said that they had received treatment for a mental health difficulty.

Thirteen per cent of people said they would not tell anyone if they were experiencing a mental health difficulty, up 2 per cent on last year’s survey.

In a slight increase from last year’s survey, 72 per cent of parents to under-18s said that they worry about their children’s mental health. This represents a significant increase from 2019, when 57 per cent of parents reported worrying about their children’s mental health.

In a more positive trend, 87 per cent of respondents in 2023 would tell someone if they were experiencing a mental health difficulty, up from 83 per cent in 2018.

More people would be comfortable with explaining to their boss if they needed time off work due to mental health struggles this year (59 per cent) than last year (56 per cent).

Hobbies (56 per cent), an exercise regime (54 per cent) and increased time outdoors (53 per cent) are the most popular ways in which Irish people manage their mental health, with 2 2 per cent citing seeking mental health support via a helpline or professional service.

If you are looking for support HSE mental health services can be contacted via 24 hour freephone our information line on 1800 111 888 or through your local GP, while St Patrick’s can be reached at stpatricks.ie or (01) 249 3200

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Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist