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Report: 1 in 3 young people have experienced mental health problems

Depression, anxiety and stress were found to be significantly higher in young people who engaged in harmful drinking behaviour.

Photo posed by model
Photo posed by model
Image: Nathan Csonka Photography via Creative Commons/Flickr

ONE IN THREE young people have experienced mental health problems, and more than a fifth have engaged in self-harm, a newly released survey has indicated.

The My World Survey involved 14,306 young people (aged 12-25 years) and also explored the risk and protective factors that can affect mental health.

The survey, released today by Headstrong – the National Centre for Youth Mental Health – and the UCD School of Psychology, found that nearly half of all sixth year secondary school students and more than 60 per cent (17-25 year olds) reported alcohol consumption that fell outside the ‘normal’ parameters set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Young people who engaged in harmful drinking behaviours, or who were classed as alcohol dependent, displayed significantly higher levels of depression, stress and anxiety.

The survey also revealed that 7 per cent of young adults had reported a suicide attempt. Suicidal thoughts, attempts, and rates of self-harm were higher amongst those who did not discuss their distress with others, the survey found.

Males were found to be less likely to talk about their problems than females.

Financial concerns

Financial concerns also played a part in young adults’ sense of well-being, with six out of 10 reporting feeling stressed about their financial situation. Those worried about money showed higher levels of stress and excessive drinking.

Dr Barbara Dooley, Headstrong’s Director of Research and senior lecturer at UCD School of Psychology, said: “We must see youth mental health as a national priority. There is no health without mental health.”

Referring to the scope of the survey, she said: “We have never had access to such rich information that enables us to identify critical protective factors that help young people to resolve the challenges they face, and also the risk factors that compound their distress.”

‘One good adult’

The survey highlighted the importance of a supportive adult figure in a young person’s life; more than 70 per cent of young people said that they received high or very high levels of support from an adult they trusted – which had a “positive impact on their self-belief, confidence, coping skills and optimism about the future”.

A supportive adult can be a parent, grandparent, teacher, sports coach or someone else who is available to a young person in a time of need.

Speaking at the launch of the survey, Kathleen Lynch TD, Minister for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, said: “The My World Survey findings highlight how all young people, especially those who are not coping with their lives need our support, now more than ever”.

“We are all potential ‘good adults’ in the lives of young people. We have such an influence on their sense of belonging, self-esteem and how they cope with difficulties,” she added.

Read: 93 per cent rise in young people seeking help for self-harm, suicidal thoughts

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