18 December, 2023

Release of annual mental health survey findings reveals need for us all to practise self-compassion

Findings on an annual survey on mental health stigma in Ireland reveal the need for self-compassion.

At St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS), we are encouraging everyone across the country to give themselves the gift of compassion this Christmas, following the results of our 2023 Annual Attitudes to Mental Health and Stigma Survey.

The survey findings reveal that the Irish public are more likely to treat friends and loved ones experiencing mental health difficulties with compassion and understanding than they would themselves.

91% of survey respondents would not see it as a sign of weakness if a friend, colleague or family member sought help for a mental health difficulty; however, only 78% would not consider it a sign of weakness if they themselves sought treatment for a mental health difficulty. This reveals a higher prevalence of self-stigma, which refers to feelings of self-criticism or shame associated with mental health difficulties.

Revealing self-stigma

Despite 92% of respondents to the survey accepting that mental health difficulties can affect anyone, and seven in 10 agreeing that someone who uses mental health services can fully recover, findings also showed that one in two people who have experienced mental health difficulties did not seek treatment due to stigma or embarrassment.


report having experienced a mental health difficulty


of those who experienced a mental health difficulty received treatment


are afraid of experiencing mental health difficulties themselves in the future

Showing positive trends

Showing positive trends

We have been conducting our Annual Attitudes to Mental Health and Stigma Survey for over 10 years, and, while findings do show the need to address self-stigma in particular, they also indicate some positive trends and improving attitudes.

  • 87% of respondents to our 2023 survey would tell someone if they were experiencing a mental health difficulty; this figure stood at 83% in 2018.
  • There has been a 7% decrease in the number of people who believe there is a worrying prevalence of anxiety in Irish society since 2022, with the figure standing at 84% in 2023.
  • Those who think that Irish people would treat someone with a mental health difficulty the same as anyone else have increased by 9% in the past year, now standing at 52%.

Findings from the survey also reveal that women and those aged under 35 are more likely to report experience of mental health difficulties, while men and the over 55s are less likely to do so. Those aged 35 to 44 were most likely to have received treatment for a mental health difficulty. Hobbies (56%), an exercise regime (54%) and increased time outdoors (53%) are among the top ways in which people manage their mental health; 22% cited seeking mental health support (helpline/professional services).

In addition:

  • 65% believe Irish people would willingly accept someone with a mental health difficulty as a close friend
  • 59% would be okay explaining to their boss if they needed time off work due to a mental health difficulty
  • 72% believe that Irish society tends to view people who have spent time as an inpatient in a mental health service somewhat differently
  • 26% of people have, or know someone who has, experienced discrimination at work or in their local community due to mental health difficulties
  • 72% of parents to young people under 18 worry about their children’s mental health
  • 85% are concerned about economic factors over the coming 12 months.

You can see the survey results in more detail below.

Dealing with self-stigma

Dealing with self-stigma

Gary Kiernan, expert by experience and Chair of our Service User and Supporters Council, shared his experience in a new video on self-stigma, which we have released as part of our call to encourage us all to act compassionately towards ourselves and understand the impacts of self-stigma.

Gary explained: “The first mental health stigma I became aware of was actually my own. It took me over a year to fully accept that I had a mental health difficulty. The fear and anxiety of how I would be viewed by other people led me to internalise beliefs about my own mental health and to not fully accept that I was experiencing depression.”

“When I sought treatment for my mental health, I truly began to understand that there’s no shame in seeking support in the same way you would seek help for a physical illness. Open and honest conversations can be a powerful tool in tackling internalised stigma."

"When you’re sick, you’re sick and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. The important thing to remember is that support is available, and those who love you will want to you to seek the help.”

Paul Gilligan, our Chief Executive Officer, said: “Self-stigma occurs when negative stereotypes about mental health are internalised, affecting a person’s self-esteem and reducing their likelihood to engage with the supports needed to recover. Indeed, self-stigma can often be greater and more cumbersome than external stigma.”

“Over the last number of years, significant progress has been made in improving attitudes and awareness of mental health and to reduce stigma on a societal level. It is now time for us all to look inwards and challenge how we feel and think about our own mental health and to address any personal stigma that may exist."

"Contrary to what self-stigma tells us, acknowledging and seeking support for mental health difficulties is neither a weakness nor a failure but a courageous and necessary step on the journey to recovery. We must remember to treat ourselves compassionately and to be encouraging and supportive to ourselves in the same way we would with a loved one.”

Notes on the survey

Notes on the survey

The Annual Attitudes to Mental Health and Stigma Survey is a bespoke online survey conducted to explore the public’s awareness of, and attitudes towards, mental health in Ireland. It is conducted each year by Amarách Research on our behalf, with fieldwork carried out between 23 and 27 June 2023. The survey polled a nationally representative sample of 800 adults aged over 18.


Media queries

If you have press queries on our annual stigma survey, please contact our Communications team below.