FOUR out of 10 people believe getting treatment for a mental health problem is a sign of personal failure, while 22pc believe that those suffering mental health problems are of below average intelligence, a study has found.
New figures released by St Patrick's University Hospital in Dublin show that lack of understanding of mental health problems is still fuelling stigma and preventing people from accessing support.
Some 500 members of the public were questioned to mark World Suicide Prevention Day today.
The study found 60pc of the public would discriminate against hiring someone with a history of mental illness on the grounds that they may be unreliable, and 30pc would not willingly accept someone with depression, anxiety or another illness as a close friend.
However, the survey showed exposure to mental health problems is very widespread.
More than half of those quizzed had a close friend who had been treated for emotional or mental health problems.
Meanwhile, some 49pc worked with someone who had, and 37pc of respondents revealed a close member of their family had received help for mental difficulty.
Paul Gilligan, CEO at St Patrick's, said one in four people would have to deal with mental health difficulty at some point in their lives and society needed to challenge the stigma that existed around the issue.
"That means every single family in Ireland is affected by mental illness."
"Each year, we continue to be disturbed by the level of stigma that still exists towards those with a mental health difficulty," he said.
"We need to challenge the stigma that exists and prioritise mental health in the same way we do our physical health.
"It has been said that physical health is easier to understand because we know that healing is possible."
Mr Gilligan said there was a need to promote mental health education in Irish schools and workplaces to ensure that everyone knew that recovery was possible and that those needing help did not wait to get that help. And Mr Gilligan said the hospital was committed to campaigning at a national level to combat the stigmatisation of mental illness and to ensure that those suffering from mental illness had access to the highest quality mental health care and were fully included in Irish society.
"It is through this and other campaigns that St Patrick's will strive for wider acceptance and a better understanding of mental illness," he said.