Quarter of people still think depression a 'state of mind'


TWO IN five people would not want to know if a loved one was experiencing depression even though almost everyone acknowledges that talking about the problem is an important part of recovery, a survey has found.

The 2011 Mental Health Barometer, commissioned by the pharmaceutical firm Lundberg, also found that almost a quarter of people still think depression is a “state of mind” rather than an illness.

Some 49 per cent of people said they would want to know if someone close to them was suffering from depression, while 42 per cent said they would not want to know.

Just 37 per cent of young people under 25 years said they would want to know, according to the survey, which has been conducted every year for the past six years.

“There is clearly a sense of embarrassment or concern that discussing it would be too personal or awkward. . . it appears that depression is somewhat objectified and feared,” said the survey.

Three out of five people said they considered stigma to be an issue for people suffering depression.

Even though the perceived stigma of suffering from depression has reduced over recent years, it is still significantly higher than the stigma associated with a range of other conditions including Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease.

Dr Harry Barry, a Louth-based GP and author of several books on depression, said at the launch of the report yesterday that it was “very worrying” that 42 per cent of people would not want their friend or family member to discuss their depression with them.

“Sometimes people just need to talk. It can be the first step towards recovery. By providing a sympathetic ear and encouraging them to get professional help they could make a real difference in their friend’s life.”

The survey also found groups perceived as being the most at risk of depression – typically young, unemployed men – were not the biggest sufferers of the illness. In fact 69 per cent of those suffering from depression in the survey were women while just 31 per cent were men.

The occurrence of depression is perceived as being less common in the elderly despite the reality that depression is common in old age, said the survey.

The survey found depression remains a widespread condition in Ireland, experienced by 4 per cent of the population directly at some stage, with almost one in eight knowing someone close to them who has experienced it.