Monday, February 1, 2010

Responding to Mental Health in Ireland

For those interested in mental health issues, the following letter in the Irish Times by Amnesty comments on the latest CSO publication, the 2006 National Disability Survey:

This week the CSO published the full results of the 2006 National Disability Survey (Home News, January 28th). These results give rise to serious concerns about the lives of people with a mental health problem. In a number of key areas, the study found people with emotional, psychological or mental disabilities face the most difficulties of any group with a disability.
These results strongly indicate the need for a range of departments other than the Department of Health to take more responsibility for responding to mental health.

Among the most concerning findings were that just under two-thirds (63 per cent) of adults whose main disability was mental- health-related experienced difficulty because of the attitudes of others. This highlights the impact of stigma and discrimination. It also revealed that nearly three-quarters of people with mental health difficulties left their previous jobs because of their disability – the highest figure for any disability – and yet half of the adults not currently in work said they would be interested in starting work if the circumstances were right. Work is often the key to recovery.

This report follows the recent findings by Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (Ahead) which revealed that one- third of employees would not feel comfortable working with someone who had depression or an anxiety disorder, while almost four-fifths (78 per cent) thought that there was stigma in the workplace.

Furthermore, the National Disability Survey found that just over half of those with mental health difficulties reported that they had stopped education due to their disability, a significantly higher proportion than any other disability.

These findings clearly reveal that mental health is not just a “health” issue – it requires a whole society approach and action from Government departments which cover housing, employment, education, income and community affairs.

Ireland has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which protects the human rights of all those with disabilities, including people with mental health difficulties. This survey underlines the crucial need for it to be ratified as soon as possible. – Yours, etc,

Executive Director, Amnesty