40% of young people attending treatment clinic had attempted suicide

Two out of every five young people who attended a Cork-based drug and alcohol treatment service last year had attempted suicide.

In addition, 70% had displayed suicidal ideation — an unusual preoccupation with killing themselves — according to Dr Sharon Lambert, day care treatment manager with Matt Talbot Services for drug and alcohol treatment.

Dr Lambert said of 200 referrals to the service last year, 96 young people aged between 14 and 23 said they had attempted suicide. However she said the fact that none of these young people had taken their lives showed how effective counselling could be.

“There were high numbers thinking about suicide, but nobody did it. It shows that talking does help, that you can prevent it. It’s a positive story,” Dr Lambert said.

She added that teens who suffer from anxiety are more at risk of developing serious mental health problems as adults or engaging in substance abuse.

She said three quarters of adults with mental health problems experience symptoms under the age of 18.

“The majority of problems people have as adults first manifest themselves at around the ages of 14 or 15, usually starting with anxiety,” she said.

Approximately 95% of young people attending Matt Talbot Services were in a poor emotional state, feeling very anxious or very down and often drug and alcohol use made them feel better, Dr Lambert said.

However, it was hard to know whether drug and alcohol abuse was a result of a person trying to cope with a mental health issue or if an addiction created the mental health problem.

Dr Lambert was speaking at a Cork City Comhairle na nÓg event at City Hall called Drugs and Mental Health: The Missing Link, a topic chosen by the teen members of Comhairle who spent more than a year researching the lack of interdisciplinary interaction between mental health professionals and community drugs and addiction specialists.

As part of their research, the teenagers have come up with the idea of a Facebook page where five imaginary characters will play out a variety of mental health and substance abuse scenarios. The idea is to help other people with issues they may have with either mental health or substance abuse or a combination of both.

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