What do Irish people think about mental health problems?

In 2010, the See Change campaign – with co-funding from the National Office for Suicide Prevention and the National Disability Authority – commissioned a national survey on ‘Public Attitudes Towards Mental Health Problems’. The survey is a benchmark study on Irish public attitudes to mental health problems. Below are ten headling findings from that survey.

1. Underreporting of mental health problems among key groups

  • 55-64 year olds: 5%
  • Farmers: 3%
  • People living in Dublin: 5%

2. Irish people vastly underestimate the extent of mental health problems

  • Just 11% were correct in the belief that 1 in 4 will experience a mental health problem
  • 21% believe that the correct answer is 1 in 10
  • 19% believe that the answer is 1 in 50
  • 20% believe that just 1 in 100 will experience a mental health problem

3. More information & education is required to promote greater understanding

  • 7 in 10 Irish people strongly agree that virtually anyone can develop a mental health problem
  • Over 1 in 2 think mental health issues are very common


  • Only 1 in 5 think the majority will recover
  • 7 in 10 recognise the symptoms of depression, but less than half recognise symptoms of schizophrenia

4. Stigma in the workplace is in urgent need of strategic attention

  • 2 in 3 strongly agree that those with mental health problems should have the same rights as others, but:
  • Only 46% say this in respect of job rights
  • Only 58% say that someone diagnosed with depression will go back to work within a year
  • Just 1 in 5 say they would be very comfortable working with someone with depression

5. Lack of information, poor understanding and lack of experience lead to stigma

  • 3 in 4 strongly agree that mental health should be openly discussed, but:
  • 1 in 2 say they wouldn’t want others to know if they were experiencing problems themselves
  • 1 in 4 agree it would be hard to talk to someone with mental health problems

6. Ireland needs a more community based approach to mental health treatment

  • 61% feel strongly that community is best for recovery
  • 34% strongly believe mental health hospitals are outdated
  • Only 18% think that there is sufficient help available

7. Lack of communication due to stigma

  • 1 in 3 would hide mental health problems from friends
  • 1 in 10 would hide problems from family
  • 1 in 3 say their family would hide diagnosis
  • Positively, 94% say they would offer others support

8. Farmers and mental health (Key target group)

  • 57% would not want others to know
  • 42% would hide diagnosis from friends
  • 45% would not know what to do to help someone
  • 35% would find it hard to talk to someone with mental health problems
  • 27% would delay seeking help for fear of someone knowing about it

9. Young males 18-24 (Key target group)

  • 53% would not know what to do to help someone
  • 29% would delay seeking help for fear of someone knowing about it
  • 9% would not seek psychological help if diagnosed
  • 11% say their partner would want to break up with them if diagnosed

10. Personal experience brings more hope

Those with personal experience are more likely to:

  • seek help: 94%
  • believe in recovery: 63%
  • know what to do: 55%

Need more information?

Contact a member of the See Change team:

T: +353 1 860 1620

E: info@seechange.ie


For a copy of the report, visit: http://www.seechange.ie/index.php/news/68-public-attitudes-towards-mental-health-problems


8 thoughts on “What do Irish people think about mental health problems?

  1. Tried to tweet a response but not sure how it works! It seems to me that the Irish reponse you picked up so well has a very healthy side ie that fear of disclosure shows an awareness of the devastating effects of mental ill health- there must be other tiny countries like Ireland who have managed it better. The community care response with a team including gp and mental health team might work but the privacy issue still remains.

    1. I agree the privacy issue is a huge thing- but I believe that comes down to the stigma associated with mental illness. Until we start treating people with mental health issues the way they should be treated i.e with dignity and respect we will continue to have this stigma. Thanks for visiting the blog, and hopefully you’ll come back again 🙂

  2. Hi Marie,

    Thanks a million for posting this we really appreciate it. Thanks also for the kind comments Paul and Caroline. Paul I’d love to talk to you about the campaign – and we’ll be in Cork on February 7th. Anytime you want to get in touch just drop me an email at mbyrne@seechange.ie.

    Mark Byrne
    See Change Campaign Team

  3. Thank you Marie for publicising this information – we need lots of information to help us deal with our mental health. The more raw data we have in the public domain the easier it is for us to think about it.

    You inspire me to go write a blogpost about the results of this survey – it’s time I connected with the See Change initiative.

  4. Great to see quality information making an appearance. I suffer with depression myself and am on a mission to eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness and the more we talk about stuff like this, the more acceptable it will become to admit to having a mental illness. I am a Time to Change Champion, Rethink activist and work with the Depression Alliance so it’s high on my agenda for 2011. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Caroline, Paul and Mark for your comments. I agree with both Caroline and Paul that this information is necessary and needs to be made available to the average person and not just lie on a desk somewhere. See Change are the ones who made the info available I’m simply passing it on 🙂 So thanks mark for making it available.
      Like you Caroline I also am an advocate for those with mental health issues- and am well aware of the fantastic work being done by a Time to Change, and Rethink. I am involved with Headstrong here in Ireland who are trying to change the way young people with mental health issues are treated. Unfortunately things will only get worse with budget cuts and people out of employment- but hopefully we can all try to do our bit.

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