Personal experience of mental health issues has quadrupled amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research.
A survey by Kantar research, commissioned by mental health organisation See Change, found just over a third (35 per cent) of respondents had experienced a mental health issue since the advent of Covid-19 – four times the number from a survey in 2017.
Almost half (46 per cent) of those surveyed said they would consider hiding a mental health issue from their family and friends, with younger people more likely to conceal a difficulty than older generations.
See Change, an organisation dedicated to ending mental health stigma, today launched its ‘Green Ribbon’ campaign for 2021 which aims to promote a national conversation about mental health in Ireland.
People can take part by wearing a Green Ribbon – an international symbol of mental health awareness – to show others they are open to starting positive conversations about mental health.
Exclusion and stigma
Barbara Brennan, See Change programmes leader, said the organisation was concerned that a significant number of people still believe mental health problems should remain hidden.
“We want to encourage people to talk about their problems. For this year’s Green Ribbon, we are focusing on the theme of ‘exclusion’ and how it impacts a person’s mental health,” she said.
“For example, people from marginalised communities with mental illnesses suffer double stigma – the stigma of being associated with the community they are in, as well as the stigma of having a mental health difficulty. We want to eradicate the shame and stigma that these groups still face on a daily basis.”
The past 18 months have given us all an experience of what it is to be restricted, to be isolated, to be lonely
Joining Ms Brennan at the launch of the campaign, Minister of State at the Department of Community Development, Joe O’Brien, said the pandemic had seen many experience social isolation.
“The past 18 months have given us all an experience of what it is to be restricted, to be isolated, to be lonely, to feel fearful, panicked, and maybe overwhelmed at times,” he said.
“One potentially positive thing that has come from the past 18 months is the normalisation of people freely admitting that they were mentally struggling.
“It is vital that the necessary supports are provided in order to foster a culture of social inclusion wherein everyone, no matter their background, feels no shame in asking for help for a mental illness in the same way they wouldn’t feel shame seeking help for a physical illness.”
'Time to normalise conversations'
See Change Ambassador, Linda Garvin, added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has given people an idea of the loneliness that exclusion brings. Social isolation adversely impacts people’s mental health.
“For those living with mental health difficulties, stigma and exclusion go hand in hand and make life so much more difficult than it needs to be.
“As an ambassador, I wear my green ribbon with pride. It’s time to normalise conversations about mental health and see change.”
To join the mental health conversation, you can pick up a free Green Ribbon in participating Boots stores, Iarnród Éireann stations, AIB branches or Eir stores.
See Change is a project of Shine, a charity that supports people affected by ill mental health, and is funded by the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention.
Alternatively, the contact information for a range of mental health supports is available at mentalhealthireland.ie/get-support.
In the case of an emergency, or if you or someone you know is at risk of suicide or self-harm, dial 999/112.