Over half of young people say they would hide a mental health issue from family or friends

Over half (53%) of young people would contemplate hiding a mental health difficulty from family or friends, according to new research from See Change, Ireland’s organisation dedicated to ending mental health stigma.  

The research, which was conducted by Kantar, reveals that 1 in 5 15-24-year olds say they would even delay treatment for a mental health problem if they felt people might find out. According to See Change, mental health stigma has been identified as a barrier to recovery, with many people fearing being labelled as mentally ill and subsequently treated differently. 

See Change has more than 50 Ambassadors who are trained to tell their mental health story in a responsible way to help break down mental health stigma and discrimination.  

Commenting on the impact that mental health stigma has had on her life, See Change Ambassador, Sheila Naughton said “I cancelled plans and didn’t attend events because I felt sorry for anyone having to be around Sheila and her eating disorder. I felt I was doing others a favour by removing myself from their lives and occasions.” 

Describing her experience of living with a mental health difficulty, See Change Ambassador, Daniela Ferro said “Living with a mental health difficulty sometimes feels like I should win an Oscar. I conceal what’s going on behind the smiles and jokes, I pretend I am a happy as ever. The fear of being rejected and being denied to be any more than my diagnosis turns me into an actress.” 

The findings reveal that over half of those surveyed say they fear personally facing a mental health issue in the future. See Change say this suggests that more people now acknowledge that anyone is susceptible to experiencing a mental health difficulty. 

Encouragingly, it also found that 7 in 10 people would feel comfortable discussing mental health difficulties if their family/peers approached them and 8 in 10 people would continue relationships with friends who have a mental health difficulty. 

Commenting on the findings, See Change Programmes Leader, Barbara Brennan, said “Mental health stigma is rooted in our history of institutionalisation, which kept those with mental health difficulties separate to everyone else. In fact, up until 1993 the act of suicide was an offence that was punishable by law. The decriminalisation of suicide means we shouldn’t say ‘commit’, and instead use less stigmatising language like ‘died by suicide.’ While some progress has been made, these findings show that societal change is a slow process and that there’s still a lot to do to end mental health stigma.” 

She added “At See Change, our aim is to challenge the misinformation and wrong assumptions which negatively impact a person with a mental health difficulty. One of the ways that people can help end this stigma is by educating ourselves about the different types of mental illnesses. We should also be mindful of stigmatising language such as using words like ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’ to describe everyday experiences. While these words may not mean much to you, they could have serious implications for those who have been labelled with these words in the past and may mean that they won’t speak to you about their mental health issues if they need your support as a friend.” 

See Change is a project of Shine, a charity that supports people affected by ill mental health. See Change is funded by the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention, in alignment with Connecting for Life, Ireland’s national strategy to reduce suicide.  

To learn more about ending mental health stigma and discrimination, download the Stand Up to Stigma guide here and visit the See Change website www.seechange,.ie to find out about the work it does across workplaces and communities. 



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