People suffering from mental health illnesses can die on average 10 to 15 years sooner than those without mental health issues.
That is according to a leading GP, who addressed the Oireachtas committee on Mental Health earlier today.
Members of the Irish Congress of General Practitioners (ICGP) stressed to the committee that more mental health supports need to be implemented in the health service.
The ICGP are calling for the establishment of a chronic disease management programme to support the physical complications many people living with a severe mental illness endure.
ICGP Assistant Medical Director, Dr Brian Osbourne, says the health sector is not sufficiently resourced to deal with health issues associated with mental illnesses.
He said: "It’s smoking, it’s alcohol, its diabetes, it’s heart disease, it’s high blood pressure - all of which are very much within our remit to treat.
"However, we are not resourced to manage the mental health of many of these patients."
The ICGP representatives also told the committee of how the Covid-19 pandemic has “exasperated” existing mental health conditions.
Overall availability of care has dropped as a result of the virus, minimising important social contact for patients.
Also addressing the committee, Dr Denis McCauley, chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, said that the pandemic had undoubtedly had "significant psychological effects” and had “exacerbated previous psychological and psychiatric issues."
He said: “These can arise from direct effects of infection and of long Covid syndrome, with enforced isolation and quarantine and with the additional stressors such as acute or abnormal bereavement and job losses.
“These additional pressures can present as acute psychiatric diagnosis or an exacerbation of previous psychological/psychiatric issues, domestic violence or increased levels of alcohol or drug use,” he added.