More than half of young people in Ireland will meet the criteria for a mental health illness before they reach the age of 25, a study has found.
Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and Dublin's Mater Hospital traced 212 people from different schools in north Dublin who had been interviewed when they were aged between 12 and 15, and re-interviewed them when they were aged between 19 and 24.
The study found that by the age of 25, almost one in five of the participants were found to be affected by a current mental health disorder. Furthermore, 56% had been affected by a mental health disorder at some point in their lives.
One in six of the participants was found to have had an alcohol use disorder at some point in their life.
The researchers emphasised that the provision of mental health services for young people in Ireland must be a priority and called for larger studies from around the country to help inform the development of such services.
The findings were published in a special youth-themed issue of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. Another study featured in the issue revealed that young people who are not in education, employment or training of some sort are at an increased risk of developing a mental health disorder and experiencing suicidal ideation.
Researchers from the RCSI and University College Dublin (UCD) found that young people in this position are three times more likely to develop a mental health disorder during their lifetime and are seven times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
Furthermore, people who are diagnosed with a mental health disorder while still in their teens are four times more likely to be unemployed in young adulthood.
A third study featured in the journal found that one in three teenagers in Ireland experiences elevated levels of anxiety and depression.
The study by researchers from UCD and Headstrong found that the role of family and parents is key. Cohesive families with low levels of parental criticism were found to benefit teenagers' mental health and wellbeing the most.
Commenting on the findings, Prof Mary Cannon of the RCSI, insisted that it is now time to ‘start focusing on providing specialised services catering for the needs of young people', especially those transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.
"This can be a difficult time with many challenges for vulnerable youth. The reality is that our existing services simply cannot respond to the level of need among Irish youth. New models of service are required," she commented.
The Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine is the official journal of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland.
For more information on depression, see our Depression Clinic here