News attitudes research

2012 Research: Mental health problems more widespread yet more hidden in times of financial hardship.


In 2012, See Change commissioned Millward Brown Lansdowne to conduct a nationally representative survey of Irish attitudes towards mental health problems to build on baseline research conducted for the campaign in 2010. The survey was conducted over May and June in 2012 with a sample size of 1,038 people and was cofunded by the National Office for Suicide Prevention and the National Disability Authority.

Launching the research findings, Kahlil Thompson-Coyle, campaign manager with See Change said,

It is clear that Irish attitudes to mental health problems are in flux and the impact of the recession seems to be a major influence on our attitudes to our own and others’ mental health.

“While financial hardship has seen people’s experience with mental health problems increase, there is also increased fear and perceived risk around being open about a mental health problem with family, partners, friends and colleagues.”

“Despite increased intent to seek professional help, attitudes to disclosure and openness around personal experience with a mental health problem have decreased in the period since 2010 and most notably among those under severe financial strain, farmers and young males. An increasing number of those surveyed said they would hide a mental health problem from family, friends, and employers and work colleagues and would even delay seeking help for fear of someone finding out. Similarly, there was an increased belief that peers would react negatively to a person’s mental health disclosure; ignoring the person, distancing themselves, ending relationships and limiting career prospects.”

“See Change’s stigma-reduction activities will now focus on those under financial strain as a new target group to engage with a message of recovery, openness and understanding around mental health problems.

“The study also highlighted increased awareness and understanding of mental health, stigma and support services. Attitudes around the outcomes for recovery from a mental health problem and the integration of people with mental health problems have also softened, although attitudes towards people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia still lag behind. There is a growing recognition of the factors that can positively and negatively impact on mental health. The importance of friend and family support as well as financial security were rated as most crucial to mental health.”

Main findings: Attitudes in 2012 vs. 2010

1. An increased number of Irish people claim to have some experience a mental health problem, either themselves or through others.

2. There is increased awareness and understanding of mental health, mental health problems, stigma and support services.

3. There has been some improvement of attitudes around the outcomes for recovery from a mental health problem although attitudes to people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia still lag behind.

4. There has been some softening of attitudes towards the integration of people with mental health problems although attitudes to people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia still lag behind.

5. There is increased willingness to seek professional help for a mental health problem.

6. There is greater reluctance to be open and disclose information about a mental health problem in personal and professional relationships.

7. There is a more negative perception of peers’ reactions to a person’s mental health disclosure.

Read the full research report: Irish attitudes towards mental health problems, 2012 See Change

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