Young People's Mental Health
A report of the results from a large school based study
At the National Symposium on Young People's Mental Health, 21st of October2004 in Jury's Hotel, Cork, organised by the National Suicide Research Foundation in conjunction with the National Suicide Review Group and the Southern Health Board, the report on "Young People's Mental Health: A report of the results from the Lifestyle and Coping Survey", was launched by Mr. Tadhg Glavin, Senior Inspector Southern Regional Office, Department of Education and Science.
The report presents the findings from a large-scale cross-sectional study involving nearly 4,000 Irish adolescents aged 15-17, investigating a wide range of mental health issues, including the prevalence of symptoms of depression, anxiety, alcohol & drug use and deliberate self harm.
The study, one of the largest studies of adolescent mental health conducted in Ireland to-date, also addresses the strategies that young people employ to cope with difficulties in life.
This study shows that overall, Irish adolescents have good mental health and report high levels of general wellbeing. However, the study also identified a substantial number of adolescents with significant mental health problems, including alcohol misuse, symptoms of depression and anxiety and deliberate self harm.
Just over two thirds (67.5%) of the teenagers surveyed reported having at least one drink in a typical week. Of those, the majority (71.3%) reported drinking up to 5 drinks in a typical week, with boys drinking more than girls. Serious personal, emotional, behavioural or mental health problems were experienced by 987 (26.9%) of the teenagers surveyed. Of these, only 176 (17.8%) received professional help, a pattern which was similar for both boys and girls.
A lifetime history of deliberate self harm was reported by 333 (9.1%) of the teenagers surveyed, with girls being three times more likely to harm themselves than boys. Only a minority of teenagers who harmed themselves had been in contact with a health service, 11.1% before and 15.3% after engaging in deliberate self harm.
The study findings clearly indicate that there is a ‘hidden population' of adolescents with serious mental health problems, who do not come to the attention of health care services.
These results also highlight the need to consult with and involve young people in the planning, development and implementation of mental health promotion programmes and treatment options and facilities for adolescents. It is a challenge for professionals working in the relevant health care, education and community sectors to reach the ‘hidden population' of young people who experience mental health problems and who may be at risk of developing serious and long-standing psychiatric disorders.
The findings underline the need to prioritise mental health issues in relation to young people and to ensure that they are adequately and appropriately addressed in the formulation of national mental health policy, with input from both the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science.
The study was carried out by the National Suicide Research Foundation in collaboration with the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork. The study is part of an ongoing international collaborative research project, the Child and Adolescent Self harm in Europe (CASE) study, involving research centres in Belgium, Hungary, Norway, The Netherlands, UK and one non-European centre in Australia.
Within Ireland, the National Suicide Review Group and the Ireland Funds have provided funding to carry out the study in the Southern Health Board region (now the Health Service Executive Southern Area).