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'Dramatic increase' in admissions to Dublin mental health hospital in last month

Acute work-related stress has also seen a number of healthcare workers being admitted to Saint John Of God Hospital.

DUBLIN’S SAINT JOHN of God hospital has said that half its admissions in the past month have been in relation to the intense pressure that Covid-19 restrictions are placing on people.

The Stillorgan hospital, specialising in mental health treatment and care, says there has been a “dramatic increase” in patients who are struggling with mood and anxiety disorders, addictions and issues relating to severe social isolation. 

Acute work-related stress has also seen a number of healthcare workers being admitted to the hospital.

“We have already seen a significant increase in admissions relating to intense pressure that Covid-19 restrictions are placing on people. In the past month alone, half of admissions to the hospital have been specifically related to the impact of these restrictions,” said Emma Balmaine, chief executive of the hospital. 

She said the hospital is anticipating the increase will continue in the weeks and months ahead as the immediate crisis begins to stabilise and the country begins to reopen.

“Current admission patterns suggest that those who have long-standing mental health issues may need increased support at this time, but we are also seeing a lot of new referrals from people experiencing mental health challenges as a result of the Covid-19 crisis,” said Balmaine. 

Additional planning will need to be done in order to prepare for the surge in demand for mental health services from within the hospital and at Government level.

The Department of Health last month announced an additional €1.1 million investment in online mental health supports to help people, especially health services staff, manage their mental health during and following.

Figures from the Department have shown a tenfold growth in the number of people seeking online counselling through MyMind. Of these, 35% are seeking support for anxiety and stress and up to 20% are making appointments to seek assistance with depression.

According to the Central Statistics Office survey of 4,033 people in Ireland during April 2020 on the impact of Covid-19 on health and wellbeing, 59.6% of the respondents were “somewhat” concerned about household stress and confinement with 17% reporting that they were very concerned. Overall life satisfaction was rated as “high” by 12.2% compared to 44.3% in 2018. 

The Mental Health Commission wrote to each political party last week to ensure that mental health is appropriately prioritised within any programme for government.

The Commission said it is of the view that only through the appointment of a fully-resourced task force that a root and branch overhaul of current services can occur and a fit-for-purpose and comprehensive mental health system be put in place.

Writing for TheJournal.ie today, Psychotherapist Gerry Cunningham said it is reasonable to feel worried, anxious, confused and to experience low mood during a pandemic, urging everyone to use the supports that are available. 

“Our human brain has evolved to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Anxiety and panic are normal stress reactions during a crisis. The rapid spread of the pandemic gave us little chance to prepare or to process all that has happened in recent weeks.

Our reactions to social isolation mirror a grieving cycle including shock, denial, anger, sadness, fear, frustration and a fear of losing control. Sometimes it is difficult to find the words to understand what is going on. Emotional distress around Covid-19 is not a mental illness but an understandable stress reaction.   

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  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy are hoping to investigate the measures being taken to tackle a pandemic-induced mental health crisis in Ireland. You can help fund them here

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Adam Daly

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