Figures published by the Health Research Board show a total of 17,797 admissions recorded last year, with an equal proportion of males and females. Two thirds of last year’s admissions were for people who were being readmitted to care.
At any one time, there were around 2,200 patients receiving residential psychiatric care in Irish hospitals last year.
The number of people requiring admission to hospital for psychiatric treatment has been falling steadily since 1986, when admissions peaked at 29,392.
Over the past decade the number of admissions has now fallen by 16%, while the policy to close older psychiatric hospitals has seen admissions to such facilities drop by 53% from 6,814 in 2005 to 3,219 last year.
Since 2012 the Government has ring-fenced €125m for mental health care, with the focus on developing community-based mental health services. However, Opposition parties have criticised the level of staff shortages in such community services. The latest figures show a reduction of 660 on 2013 admission figures — an annual decrease of almost 4%.
However, there was a 5% increase in the number of children being admitted to psychiatric units. A total of 436 children aged under 18 years were admitted for psychiatric treatment last year, including two aged 13 years or under.
Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch said she was concerned that of these cases, 93 children were admitted to adult psychiatric units, which she described as “inappropriate”.
While the admission of children to adult psychiatric units has decreased continuously since 2008, Ms Lynch said there was still room for improvement.
However, she added: “In some cases, it may be the only available option if an adolescent is to obtain early treatment.”
The HRB report Activities of Irish Psychiatric Units and Hospitals 2014 shows two thirds of children requiring psychiatric care are female.
It also reveals that more than one in 10 of all adult admissions are still made on an involuntary basis. The highest rate of admissions was among the 45-54 years age group, although the 18-19 years group had the highest rate of first-time admissions.
More than half of all admissions (57%) were of single people, while 41% were unemployed.
Although divorced people accounted for only 4% of all admissions, they had the highest per capita rate of admissions, at 744 per 100,000.
The HRB recorded 253 admissions for psychiatric services from patients who were classified as having “no fixed abode”. The majority of these were single men.
A total of 142 deaths in psychiatric units and hospitals were recorded last year, most involving males over 65 years.
In terms of length of care, almost a third of all psychiatric patients were discharged within one week of being admitted, while 94% were discharged within three months.
The median stay in hospital was 10 days.
The highest number of admissions on a per capita basis was from Roscommon at 507.7 per 100,000 population, followed by Carlow, Donegal, and Westmeath.
Monaghan recorded the lowest rate of admissions at 191.8 per 100,000.