More than two in five people in Ireland would not want to know if a loved one was experiencing depression, according to findings in the 2011 Lundbeck Mental Health Barometer. Despite this, 93 per cent of respondents agree that it is important that depression is discussed openly. However when asked if they would find it difficult to discuss depression with their doctor 70 per cent agreed.
The barometer provides insights into Irish people’s attitudes towards mental health. This year’s research has illustrated that while people have become more aware of depression, they still do not have a clear understanding of what it is, and those who do experience it are reluctant to speak to a healthcare professional about it.
The research findings indicate that depression has become more visible over the past six years. In 2006 18 per cent of those who had depression, or who had a family member with depression, said that many or some people would have been aware. This year that number has grown to 53 per cent, which may illustrate a greater degree of awareness around the condition.
Stigma continues to be an underlying issue with 60 per cent of respondents saying that they consider depression to be stigmatising. The research also revealed that almost a quarter (23 per cent ) of people believe depression is not an illness but a “state of mind”. These findings indicate that while awareness of depression has grown, there is still a degree of ignorance around the condition.
“It is worrying that 42 per cent of people wouldn’t want their friend or family member to discuss their depression with them,” said Dr Harry Barry, a Louth-based GP. “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 be making a real difference in their friend’s life. While 70 per cent do say they would find it difficult to talk to their doctor, it is reassuring that so many people (77 per cent ) cite the GP as the first person to contact for information about depression. So while there is still a reluctance to discuss it, at least people know where to go. Mental health difficulties can be very distressing, not just for the person experiencing, but for their loved ones. Approaching a healthcare professional for assistance is one of the most important steps a person can make in taking responsibility for their mental health.”
Eithne Boyan, managing director of Lundbeck Ireland, added: “The Lundbeck Mental Health Barometer provides us with useful insights into how mental health is viewed by the Irish people and we expand our understanding year on year. Depression is a condition that affects all members of our community and we all have our part to play in understanding and supporting those with depression. As specialist in psychiatry Lundbeck have a particular role in education, and the barometer results show there is still quite a bit of misunderstanding about mental health issues, and depression in particular.”
The World Health Organisation estimates that depression is currently the second most disabling medical disorder in the age category 15 to 44. In Ireland it is estimated that some 400,000 people experience depression at any one time. Symptoms may include feeling unhappy most of the time, a loss of interest in life, feeling anxious, agitated, or irritable, feeling guilty, changes to sleeping patterns, change in appetite, and feeling tired a lot of the time or low energy levels.
If a person is experiencing any of the above symptoms and/or are having any thoughts of suicide or death, it is advised that he or she talks to a healthcare professional or with groups such as Aware on 1890 303 302.