Mental health difficulties start to emerge before the age of 25 in 70% of adults suffering from the condition, a leading psychiatrist told the Oireachtas committee on the future of healthcare.
The medical director of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, Prof Jim Lucey, said early intervention is key to preventing mental health problems from developing.
Prof Lucy said health service structures should stop dividing the mind and body.
Poor mental health is seen as a risk factor for chronic physical conditions; people with chronic physical conditions are at risk of developing poor mental health.
Prof Lucey said individuals with an enduring mental health disorder have significantly shorter lifespans because of poor physical health.
Because of the way the health service is structured, people with mental health difficulties are not getting the support they needed, he said.
Prof Lucey pointed out that less than a quarter of general practitioners had completed a post-graduate course in mental health. “It is an extraordinarily important issue. GPs are a hugely burdened group, and many don’t have the skillset,” he said.
The director of Mental Health Reform, Dr Shari McDaid, said mental health should be prioritised in any future healthcare plan and integrated with physical healthcare.
The lack of a comprehensive range of mental health interventions is reflected in the current limitations of the Counselling in Primary Care Service. It is only available to people over the age of 18 who have a medical card and is limited to a maximum of eight sessions. Of the 2,496 people waiting for counselling nationally earlier this year, 21% were waiting between three and six months while 5% were waiting over six months.
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