Speech for Minister O’Malley at the launch of the Mental Health Awareness and Attitudes Survey January/February 2007 commissioned by the National Office for Suicide Prevention in the Alexander Hotel at 12.30pm on Thursday 26th April 2007.

I am delighted to be here with you today to launch the “Mental Health Awareness and Attitudes Survey January/February 2007” which was conducted by Millward Brown IMS. This research survey was commissioned by the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) in order to obtain a comprehensive view of attitudes to mental health among the Irish adult population.  The findings from this research will be used by the National Office to develop a public awareness campaign as was recommended in “Reach Out”, the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which was launched in September 2005.

Derek Chambers will be speaking to you in a few minutes in relation to the detail of the Survey but I would like to mention some of the findings that I found particularly interesting.  It is clear from the survey that stigma still exists in relation to mental health.  While people acknowledge that anyone can experience mental health problems and that people with mental health problems have the same rights as anyone else, stigma remains deeply entrenched.  Six out of ten adults would not want people to know if they were experiencing mental health problems and do not believe that people with mental health problems should hold important jobs, for example, a doctor or nurse.

86 per cent of Irish adults rate their own quality of life as good or very good, however, this falls to 64 per cent among those who have personal experience of mental health problems.

There appears to be a significant underestimation of the prevalence of mental health problems among the Irish population, with only 5% of respondents in the survey stating that one in four people may have a mental health problem at some point in their life.  However, the World Health Organisation estimates that 25 per cent of the population will have a lifetime experience of a mental health problem.

Suicide, alcoholism, and depression were identified as the top three most important mental health/mental health related problems that need to be addressed in Ireland.

This survey serves as a ‘snapshot’ of where Irish adults are at in terms of their understanding and awareness of mental health today.  In many respects, the findings are positive.  Crucially, however, the research has highlighted specific areas where targeted education and awareness building are required.

A fundamental aim of  “Reach Out” – A National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention 2005-2014 is to prevent suicidal behaviour, including deliberate self-harm, and to increase awareness of the importance of good mental health among the general population.  Ongoing, quality, multi-disciplinary research is an essential strand of the strategy and the findings from this Survey will be of greatest value where they can inform and stimulate action and service development.

As you are aware, the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy “A Vision for Change”, which was launched in January 2006, proposes a holistic view of mental illness and recommends an integrated multidisciplinary approach to addressing the biological, psychological and social factors that contribute to mental health problems.  Special emphasis is given to the need to involve service users and their families and carers at every level of service provision.

I wish to assure you all that I am committed to the provision of quality care in the area of mental health, to upholding the civil and human rights of those who suffer from mental illness and to encouraging measures aimed at combating the stigma that is often associated with such illness.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate everyone from the National Office for Suicide Prevention and thank those who were involved in the compilation of this important research.  Initiatives such as these are testament to your commitment to increasing mental health awareness and suicide prevention in this country.

Thank you