Mental health sufferers 'ashamed to seek help'
Published 06/10/2010 | 14:41
The stigma and embarrassment surrounding mental health is stopping sufferers seeking vital help, experts warned today.
The new study showed 45pc of people would not willingly accept someone with a mental health problem as a close friend, with 65pc admitting they would discriminate against hiring someone with a history of mental illness as they may be unreliable.
The survey, carried out for St Patrick's University Hospital, also revealed a quarter of those quizzed believed people with mental health problems were of below average intelligence.
Paul Gilligan, St Patrick's chief executive, said stigma remained a major hurdle for people accessing mental health services.
"It is a sad fact that because of this stigma, many sufferers feel embarrassment and shame and are reluctant to seek appropriate supports," said Mr Gilligan.
The survey - launched to coincide with mental health awareness week - was carried out on 240 members of the public nationwide and focus groups in Leinster.
Almost four out of 10 felt undergoing treatment was a sign of personal failure.
However, it also revealed exposure to mental health problems was widespread, with 55pc of respondents having a close member of their family - such as a parent, child, brother, sister - treated for a condition.
Another 61pc stated close friends had had help and more than half confirmed they worked with someone who had emotional or mental health problems.
Professor Jim Lucey, medical director at St Patrick's, said society needed to understand and accept mental illness.
The Dublin-based facility, which provides a mental health services for patients from all over Ireland, recently opened a new inpatient unit for teenagers.
"Our service is firmly focused on recovery and fosters positive coping and management skills to enhance the quality of life of those suffering from mental illness," added Prof Lucey.
"However, it is vital that people seek help early and stigma so often prevents this."