October 8, 2010

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CHARLIE TAYLOR

People with mental health problems face widespread discrimination in the workplace, at home and from friends, according to a new study.

The research, which was undertaken by Dublin City's University's School of Nursing on behalf of Amnesty International Ireland, shows that as many as 95 per cent of Irish people who have mental health issues say they have been treated unfairly because of their condition.

Almost two-thirds of the 300 study participants interviewed reported having been avoided or shunned because of a mental health problem. As many as 61 per cent of individuals said they had been untreated fairly by family members while 43 per cent claimed to have face discrimination when it came to retaining a job.

A third of those interviewed for the Hear my voice: challenging mental health prejudice and discrimination study said they experienced difficulties when applying for work with the result that two-thirds had decided not to seek some roles.

Survey participants also reported unfair treatment in areas such as education.

Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O'Gorman said today that while there is no clear evidence of overt direct discrimination by the State against people with mental health problems in national laws, policies or practices, the real issue was the "hidden indirect indiscrimination that people with mental health problems face when they experience inequality in education, housing work and other areas."

He called on the Government to introduce measures to identify such inequalities in order to tackle discrimination against those with mental health problems.

“Unlike racism, sexism or ageism, there is no ‘-ism’ to describe discrimination on the grounds of mental health. It remains the hidden, permissible ‘-ism’, but it must be challenged," said Mr O'Gorman. "We know that people with mental health problems have lower employment rates and are more likely to have left education early, suggesting the reported unfair treatment from the research is having a very real impact on people’s lives."

At the report launch in Dublin today, Amnesty, in conjunction with See Change, unveiled its brand new social marketing campaign to help challenge mental health prejudice and end discrimination, which will be seen on billboards, bus shelters and in newspapers across the country.

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