One third would not vote for politician with depression - study

While attitudes towards mental health have improved, research shows stigma remains

Prof Ella Arensman, of the National Suicide Research Foundation, said the findings show that while many attitudes are more favourable, ongoing awareness about depression and mental health is required.

Prof Ella Arensman, of the National Suicide Research Foundation, said the findings show that while many attitudes are more favourable, ongoing awareness about depression and mental health is required.

Fri, Oct 11, 2013, 07:22


Almost one in three people in Ireland say they would not vote for a politician if they knew they had been depressed, a new study shows.

The research indicates that while attitudes towards mental health have become more favourable in recent times, significant numbers still feel harshly disposed towards people with mental health problems.

For example, one in five (20 per cent) would not employ someone if they knew that they had been depressed.

The findings are contained in a general population survey – Optimising Suicide Prevention Programmes and their Implementation in Europe – to be released later today.

The survey was conducted in Ireland, Germany, Portugal and Hungary as part of a European collaborative suicide-prevention project.

In Ireland the survey was conducted in Limerick and Galway among a representative sample of 1,000 people in December 2009.

While a majority were open to seeking professional help, only half of the people perceived professional help as valuable.

Comparing the four countries, Irish people showed the most favourable attitude toward depression, both in terms of personal and perceived stigma.

After Portugal, Irish people ranked second-highest in openness to professional help when experiencing emotional problems and ranked highest in rating the value of professional help.


Beliefs vs facts
Other findings show many people still hold attitudes that are not supported by the majority of medical research. For example, 35 per cent agreed that people with depression are dangerous, while a further 26 per cent felt depression had no real medical evidence.

Prof Ella Arensman, of the National Suicide Research Foundation, said the findings show that while many attitudes are more favourable, ongoing awareness about depression and mental health is required.

“The findings on whether respondents would vote for a politician who had depression, or employ someone with a mental health difficulty, are a sign on the wall that much more needs to be done to address stigma,” she said.


Airing the issue
“For example, politicians have recently been coming out about issues like depression. I would like to encourage that. When people at senior levels speak openly about these issues, it helps reduce stigma.”

Gerry Raleigh, director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention, said the findings were a reminder of how wider society needs to play its part in changing attitudes and providing support.

“It is important that people who are experiencing tough times and are distressed seek help. It is also important that we look out for people around us and support them to ask for help when we are concerned for their wellbeing,” he said.

Separately, the Mental Health Commission yesterday called on authorities to invest in specialist mental health services.

In a statement to mark World Mental Health Day, the commission’s chairman, John Saunders, said mental services for older people especially needed more attention.

lIf you think you need support experts advise getting an assessment by your GP or mental health professional. Groups such as Aware also provide support for people with depression. Contact 1890 303 302 or visit aware.ie