The importance of speaking about our mental health has been a headline issue in the past few years, but there can still be a stigma attached to mental illness. A recent study revealed that only 16% of people in Ireland regularly take steps to look after their mental health, with 48% saying they should be talking about it more. So in this blog, we are going to discuss the overall state of mental health in Ireland.
According to Mental Health Ireland, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life. As you might expect, issues surrounding the mental health of the general population rose after the onset of the recession, and one way that these can be examined is across gender lines. A study by Breslin & Breslin found that men who lost their jobs during this period were more likely to suffer from anxiety, while women were more likely to develop issues with their self-esteem.
Earlier research from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland found that mental health issues among the younger population are alarmingly prevalent. That found that 1 in 5 people between the ages of 19 and 24 are suffering from some sort of mental disorder, with 19% having considered suicide at some point. Even in children between the ages of 11 and 13, it was found that 1 in 6 will experience mental health difficulties.
Among the most common issues that people cite as strains on their mental health include past trauma, substance abuse, loneliness & isolation, bullying, and financial difficulties.
Earlier this year, Unicef warned that Ireland’s youth mental health problem had reached a critical point, with 1 in 10,000 kids between the ages of 15 & 19 expected to take their own life.
Of particular concern regarding the prevalence of mental health issues in young Irish people is the fact that those who experience these issues in their youth are far more likely to have similar issues in later life, with only about 25% of cases appearing after the age of 25. Young adults who have experienced mental health issues in Ireland are three times more likely to be unemployed.
The difficulty in assessing the meaning behind statistics such as these, particularly when it comes to mental rather than physical health, is that improvement can sometimes look like deterioration. For example, DIT saw the number of students registering their mental health issues rise 700% between 2012 and 2016. While this may appear to be an alarming spike, it was in fact that result of a campaign that encouraged students to come forward with their issues, and was regarded as being widely successful in reducing the stigma surrounding them. You may have seen a similar campaign from the ISPCC recently, where they encouraged children to talk about their worries and problems.
Overall, the general trend of the past few decades has seen instances of mental health rise. While some of this can be attributed to reduced stigma, the fact remains that we do have a widespread mental health problem that needs to be addressed. This will take time, and a coordinated effort to address, but you can do your part by being part of the 16% of people who talk about these issues, and encourage others to do the same.