A big problem for many people experiencing mental health conditions is stigma. Negative attitudes and behaviours towards people experiencing mental health conditions can affect employment, access to accommodation, and the emotional impact of stigma can be a profound source of suffering. In young people, mental health stigma is also a barrier to seeking help, which is particularly concerning given that most mental health conditions develop before the age of 24.
In a recent paper, psychologists at National College of Ireland examined mental health stigma in over 300 people across Ireland, ‘Knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours towards schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism’, in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, (Mothersill et al., 2021). The results suggest that people have more negative attitudes and behaviours towards schizophrenia compared to some other mental health conditions, and most participants felt they were not informed enough about mental health by the media.
Building on this research, a new laboratory has recently been established in National College of Ireland: the Stigma and Mental Health Ireland (SAMI) Laboratory, directed by Dr. April Hargreaves, Dr. David Mothersill, and Dr. Gerard Loughnane, who lecture in Psychology at the college.
SAMI has received generous funding from Esther Ireland to carry out further stigma research in a population-representative sample of 1,000 participants in Ireland, and is partnering with The Carter Centre to repeat this research in a further 1,000 participants in Liberia, to compare mental health stigma between Europe and Africa.
Ultimately, it is hoped that this research will provide key data for Government policies and campaigns targeting mental health stigma, such as the See Change Green Ribbon campaign.
Your GP should be your first contact if you have any concerns about your mental health; they can connect you to a community mental health team, if necessary. Find out more from the HSE on YourMentalHealth.ie or, if you are seeking support, go to Shine.ie