Objective: This survey attempts to ascertain the attitude of the general public towards the mentally ill and former psychiatric patients in Ireland. Method: A random selection of 155 adults were interviewed using Likert-type scales (29 items). Results: Factor analysis revealed four main attitude dimensions: fear, lack of sympathy, personal rejection and perceived community rejection. Overall, respondents express a low level of fear and a high level of sympathy towards the mentally ill. Lack of sympathy correlated highly with older age group, lower educational level and lower socio-economic class of respondent. Respondents with higher self-reported knowledge about mental illness were less fearful and more sympathetic towards the mentally ill. Conclusions: The findings are encouraging to the development of community psychiatric services and support the usefulness of public education in the area of mental health.