Mental health and stigma


Sir, – A parliamentary forum on mental health was held in Dublin Castle on September 19th this year. There was a large attendance from many walks of life. The theme was “A Vision for Change”.

The speakers from the floor were those who could be expected to confidently discuss their own mental health issues and garner understanding and awareness for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

These individuals were well treated, supported by their GPs, given time and consideration, as is only right. Their experiences were positive, as is only appropriate. This would indicate that “A Vision for Change” is working, stigma around mental health issues is reducing and we can discuss mental health issues openly.

A majority of people who attend their GP as medical card patients, however, do not get long consultations, empathic responses and a listening ear. That’s not the fault of GPs; it’s a systemic fault where GP surgeries are so overstretched that time is never elastic enough.

The waiting time for a public health psychiatric assessment varies from area to area but I have yet to meet a medical card holder who was seen within a week in an adult community mental health facility. Rather, I have seen individuals admitted after serious suicide attempts who have been discharged from psychiatric units within days, not weeks, who have not been offered follow-up and who are at a loss as to how to help themselves.

I wish that the celebrity appearances for addiction/mental health were tempered by an ordinary man or woman’s story. I’m sure that celebrities help reduce stigma; however, their position in society ensures that their stories bear little resemblance to the lived stories of the majority of the general population. Their stories make seeking treatment and acquiring help and recover so easy, I wonder does it really reduce stigma or just enhance the inequality of the medical card holder’s experience? Until the ordinary person’s story is known, their frustration understood, and then help given, I believe stigma will continue. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.