24.11.17 - Dublin: First Fortnight 2017 mental health arts festival programme launch. Pictured are artist Emma Sheridan; First Fortnight co-founder David Keegan; and Minister of State for Mental Health & Older People Helen McEntee in artist Emma Sheridan's studio. First Fortnight 2017 runs from January 1 to 14 aimed at challenging mental health stigma. 
Photo: Kieran Frost Blog

ONE in two people wouldn’t want anyone to know they were experiencing mental health problems, according to a new survey.

With the 2017 First Fortnight festival kicking off this New Year’s Day, we have released the findings of our festival audience survey last year which saw 49% of people saying they wouldn’t want anyone to know that they were experiencing mental health problems.

The same amount of respondents (49%) also expressed a fear that they would experience mental health problems in the future while a quarter of respondents (25%) said that they would delay seeking treatment for fear that this may lead to others finding out about their mental health problem.

The survey also found that only 10% had not experienced mental health issues themselves or through a close family member or partner.

Only 17% of respondents said ‘no’, ‘don’t know’ or didn’t respond when asked if they would be willing to live with someone with a mental health problem.

Some also expressed hesitation about living nearby or working with someone with a mental health issue.

First Fortnight co-founder JP Swaine said: “The reality is that some people are already doing living or working with people with mental health problems, but have no knowledge of it and it has had absolutely no impact on their lives.”

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The survey of 1,366 attendees was carried out at the First Fortnight festival in January last year. The festival, which aims to remove the stigma around mental health runs for two weeks in Dublin and selected venues nationwide.

The survey follows on from one which was conducted in 2015 and JP welcomed a reduction in the previous year’s figures for those who felt anxiety about experiencing mental health problems in the future (now 49%), saying: “One could speculate that this could in part be due to the repeated message in mental health campaigns of late that mental health is like physical health and needs to be looked after and sometimes you can have problems with it.

“We also found people had a stronger belief in mental health recovery, at 49% compared to last year’s 44%. It was highlighted by some that the word ‘recover’ should also have the option of ‘cope’ as for many this is something ongoing that people have learned to manage and cope with as opposed to a complete recovery.”

Identical to the previous year’s survey, almost half felt reluctant to let people know they were experiencing mental health problems, so it seems fear of stigma or being judged is still an issue and there is still a lot of work to be done by mental health campaigns and projects such as First Fortnight in this area. However, thankfully, this does not seem to impact the majority of people when it comes to seeking medical treatment if needed for mental health problems.

JP said: “This suggests that while people desire privacy and fear stigma, if necessary, they will put their health first and seek help.” However, with a quarter of respondents saying they would delay seeking treatment, he adds: “This is absolutely critical to keep building upon in future festivals, this needs to reach 100%. Lives could be lost if that change can’t be achieved.”

2016 FIRST FORTNIGHT FESTIVAL SURVEY FINDINGS ON MENTAL HEALTH:

  • 25% said they would delay seeking treatment for fear of others knowing about their mental health problems
  • 49% agreed that they were afraid of experiencing mental health problems in the future
  • 86% agreed that anyone can experience mental health problems while 70% said they would have no problem talking to someone who was experiencing mental health problems

 


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