Health Research Board-funded TCD Study Identifies Stigma Faced by People Hospitalised for Mental Illness

Posted on: 02 December 2011

The Health Research Board launched its annual ‘Picture of Health’ publication this week, which communicates the findings of recently funded research to a general audience.   A study by TCD academic, Dr Brian Keogh on how people who have spent time in hospital for mental illness face stigma when they return to the community setting, is highlighted in the report.

‘Picture of Health’ 2011 outlines the findings and achievements of more than 40 out of 105 HRB-grants in 2010. It covers research into the origins and mechanisms of disease, how to translate discoveries into clinical applications and the experience of staff and patients in Ireland.

Speaking about the publication Minister for Health James Reilly said:”I strongly believe in the value of health research.  Health research can contribute to delivering a better healthcare system and improved standards of well-being.  This publication shows the relevance, value and potential impact of health research on people’s health, the delivery of our health services and the formulation of health policy.”

TCD lecturer in psychiatric nursing, Dr Keogh’s research was selected as one of six projects highlighted in the report.

He found that around 70 per cent of total admissions to psychiatric hospitals are readmissions, suggesting that many people do not transition well back into the community, and Dr Keogh’s research suggests that stigma is a problem they face.

“The participants felt ashamed that they were admitted to hospital, and when they came home from hospital this sense of shame was often reinforced by other people,” said Dr Keogh

 “Mostly they managed this through concealing their mental health problems. They didn’t tell anyone about them, and often they avoided other people completely and often other people avoided them.”

The findings indicate that better preparation is needed for mental health service users before discharge from hospital, he adds.

“People who use the mental health services need to be made aware that stigma is an issue and they need to be given skills and strategies to be better prepared to react or cope with stigma.”

Other TCD research which features  in the report  includes Professor Seamus Martin’s ‘Silencing the alarm signal  for allergies, Dr Concepta Merry’s ‘Life-saving in Uganda’, Dr Garbrielle McKee’s ‘One-to-one motivation session can help heart attack patients beat the clock’, Dr Azra Mahmud’s ‘Uncovering the secrets in Ageing in cardiovascular disease’, Dr Stephanie Holt’s ‘Children want to be seen and heard when parents separate after a history of domestic abuse’,  Dr Carolyn Tobin’s ‘Cell molecules linked with aggressive breast cancers’, Prof Lorraine O’Driscoll’s  ‘Cell molecules linked with aggressive breast cancers’ and Professor Ed Lavelle’s ‘How do dangerous bacteria manipulate and dodge our immune defences’.

The full document is available online at