One in Five Young People in Ireland is Experiencing a Mental Disorder: RCSI PERL Group Mental Health Report

The research also found that experiencing mental ill-health in early life places young people at increased risk of further episodes of mental ill-health during their adult years.

‘The Mental Health Of Young People in Ireland’ report prepared by the RCSI Psychiatric Epidemiology Research across the Lifespan (PERL) Group was launched today by Kathleen Lynch, TD, Minister of State, Department of Health and Department of Justice, Equality & Defence with responsibility for Disability, Older People, Equality & Mental Health and provides valuable, clinically-validated, data on the rates of mental disorder among Irish youth and factors contributing to mental-health. This is the first time such comprehensive, longitudinal data about mental health disorders among young people in Ireland have been published.

The PERL Group research findings combine two research studies carried out with young people in Ireland – the Adolescent Brain Development Study and the Challenging Times Two Study. The research, involved surveying and interviewing more than 400 young people between the ages of 11 and 24 to assess them for the presence of mental disorders and to examine their overall level of functioning.

Commenting on the report Professor Mary Cannon, PERL Group Leader & Associate Professor, RCSI, said: “Our research shows that high numbers of teenagers and young adults in Ireland are experiencing mental ill-health at any given time. For the first time in Ireland, we have evidence showing that young people who experience mental ill-health during adolescence have higher rates of mental disorders and substance misuse during their young adult years and are three times more likely to be unemployed than young adults who did not experience mental ill-health during their adolescence. Compared to similar international studies, the findings suggest that Irish youth may have higher rates of disorder than their peers in Europe and the USA.”

The findings of the report also indicate that high numbers of young adults aged 19-24 are engaged in the misuse of alcohol and drugs. Over 1 in 5 met criteria for a diagnosable substance use disorder over the course of their lives and 1 in 20 met criteria for an alcohol use disorder at the time of the study. Of particular concern is that 3 out of 4 young adults (75%) met lifetime criteria for binge drinking. The research also reveals that almost 1 in 5 (19%) had thought about suicide.

Speaking at the event, The Minister for State at the Department of Health & Department of Justice, Equality & Defence, Ms Kathleen Lynch T.D. said: “We, as a society, have a collective duty to foster a culture whereby all those in difficulty, and young people in particular, do not hesitate to seek help when needed. We should, for example, be alert to the signs and signals of distress, promote good coping skills, embrace difference and exclude stigma. The fundamental solution to meeting mental health needs, regardless of age, lies in effective partnerships where professionals, service users, families and the wider community work together. Obviously, the Government will continue to play its part in terms of promoting policies, services and investment for this important sector. Above all, no one should have to suffer a mental illness alone. I would appeal to any young person who thinks they may have a mental health issue not to suffer in silence and to seek help from the many sources available.”

Speaking at the conference guest lecturer Professor Pat McGorry, Professor of Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne warned: “This research should be the only wake up call that people need. This research tells us very clearly that there is an urgent need to enhance the services, supports and policies which underpin the mental health services available to young people in Ireland. There is a need for specialist mental health services catering to young people between the ages of 15 and 25. These young people do not fit well into the current adult services. Without access to appropriate support services at the right time, a young person’s chances of operating and functioning well in society as adults are severely limited.”

This report and fact sheets are available for download on The preparation of the Report and Fact sheets were funded by a Knowledge Exchange and Dissemination Award from the Health Research Board (HRB).

Download the report here

Editors Notes:
* Two studies were carried out: the Adolescent Brain Development study and the Challenging Times Two study.
* 1,131 adolescents aged 11 – 13 years of age from North County Dublin and Kildare participated in the study The Adolescent Brain Development (ABD) study and 212 attended for interview.
* 169 young people aged 19 – 24 years of age from North City Dublin participated in the Challenging Times Two study. The first Challenging Times study took place in 2001. The original study comprised of 1,723 adolescents in phase one and a sub-sample of 212 were assessed in phase two. For the Challenging Times Two study a sub set of 169 from the cohort of 212 were followed up and assessed.