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Major rise in mental health referrals and relapses during pandemic, psychiatrists say

The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland has published a survey on the impact of Covid-19 on mental health.

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THERE HAS BEEN a major rise in mental health referrals and relapses during the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey of psychiatrists has found. 

The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland has published findings of a survey of 180 psychiatrists examining the impacts of Covid-19 on mental health in the seven-month period between June 2020 and the end of December last. 

Comparing the second half of 2020 with the first half of the year, the survey found 36% of respondents reported a significant increase in referrals provided for secondary mental health services. 

30% of respondents reported a “significant” increase in the volume of emergency interventions. 

The survey also found that 28% of respondents reported a “significant increase” in the number of patients experiencing a relapse in mental health illnesses. 

In the survey, 23% of respondents said that in their view the “lethality” of methods of self-harm had increased over the year. A total of 36% of respondents found that the complexity of self-harm presentations had increased.

Half of respondents (50%) said they felt they were unequipped with IT to do their job remotely.

65% said they themselves suffered decreased wellbeing as a result of Covid-19 and 79% expect their workload to increase in the coming months.

“This survey covers the seven months up to the end of December 2020. It does not include the impact of the most recent lockdown which began in January so we can assume the figures it reveals have worsened in recent months,” President of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland Dr William Flannery said. 

“Even then, the figures we have for this survey starkly highlight the very serious impact which Covid-19 had on the mental health of the community through 2020,” Dr Flannery said. 

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“The pandemic has added enormous strain on an already fragile mental health service and there is little appreciation at a policy level for how serious the situation now is on the ground.”

Dr Flannery said psychiatrists are “working hard to address the growing needs of the community, but unfortunately Covid-19 has exacerbated a problem that has been bubbling under the surface for some time”. 

“We need to see increased funding and resources before it is too late for thousands of people under serious and, in many cases, life-threatening strain,” he said. 

Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to investigate the measures being taken to tackle a pandemic-induced mental health crisis in Ireland. See how you can support this project here.

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