One in five youths engage inself-harm

One in five 12- to 25-year-olds have engaged in self-harm, one in 14 have attempted suicide, and a third who seek formal state help feel it is very difficult to find, according to new data.

The findings come from a 14,306-person study on youth mental health, described as Ireland’s first comprehensive national examination of the country’s youth mental health issues, which will be published today.

According to the Government-backed My WorldSurvey study, the inability to talk about personal problems and the lack of a trusted adult to act as an anchor in their lives are putting young people at serious risk.

In addition, alcohol abuse bordering on addiction, and financial concerns, are playing an increasingly damaging role in young people’s mental well-being.

The study is the result of two years of research by the Headstrong national centre for youth mental health and the UCD school of psychology.

It is based on the views of 6,085 school-going 12- to 18-year-olds and 8,221 17- to 25-year-olds of varying backgrounds.

According to its authors, two out of every five young people have had suicidal thoughts, while one in 14 have made a suicide attempt.

One in five have engaged in self-harm — defined as serious, deliberate self-injury without the desire to take your life.

Fewer than half (47%) of those affected have sought help. Of these, one in three found it next to impossible to access support.

The study has also raised serious concerns over Ireland’s youth drinking culture, noting that almost half of all Leaving Certificate students and three in five 17- to 25-year-olds drink a “harmful” level of alcohol.

The issue, the report states, tends to begin at age 13-14, and by 18-19, one in every 10 young adults will be an alcoholic — a problem the researchers said leads to health and mental health problems today, not just in future years.

The study found three out of five young adults are stressed about their financial circumstances.

The authors of the study said many of the issues can be addressed if support services are improved.

However, they said adults must take on board the need to become an “anchor” for troubled young people and make themselves available to listen to their concerns.

“We must see youth mental health as a national priority. There is no health without mental health,” said Headstrong director of research, Dr Barbara Dooley.

Speaking before the launch of the survey, Mental Health Minister Kathleen Lynch said support for young people is needed “now more than ever”.

“Approximately 70% of health problems and most mortality among young people arise out of mental health difficulties,” she said. “Almost three quarters of all serious mental health difficulties first emerge between the ages of 15 and 25.

“Young people, especially those who are not coping with their lives, need our support, now more than ever.”

* The report is available at www.headstrong.ie

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