MORE THAN ONE fifth of Irish people surveyed believe that people suffering from mental health problems are of below average intelligence, according to research carried out by a Dublin hospital.
Almost two thirds of respondents to the survey by St Patrick’s University Hospital said they would not easily accept someone with a mental health problem as a close friend while 42 per cent of people said that undergoing treatment for a mental health problem is a sign of personal failure.
The hospital released the figures to coincide with World Suicide Awareness Day in a bid to highlight the stigma around mental health which it says is stopping people from accessing the support they need.
Approximately one million people worldwide die by suicide every year according to figures from the World Health Organisation.
Paul Gilligan, the chief executive of the hospital, described the figures as “very worrying”.
“These figures highlight the critical requirement to reduce stigma and barriers to accessing mental healthcare. It’s also essential that those looking for help are provided with adequate high quality services that they can trust in,” said Gilligan.
40 per cent of respondents said that a member of their immediate family had been treated for mental health problems, while just over half said they had worked with someone who had been treated for emotional or mental health problems. Almost two thirds said that a close friend had been treated.
The survey was carried out among 300 people across the country.
Speaking on RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Paul Gilligan said that the figures were consistent with international findings and with other national research. He said:
We have deeply ingrained negative views about mental health in Ireland, some of which date back to how we used to deal with mental health in the past, and I think we really have to tackle them on a number of levels.
A total of 525 people took their own lives in Ireland in 2011, an increase of 7 per cent on the previous year.