World Mental Health Day

October 10, 2013

Mental health is being marked today internationally as World Mental Health Day. A much maligned aspect of public health, it has only become a more prominent topic in recent years following Amnesty International’s successful campaigning on the issue in 2009.

As with Amnesty International’s series of campaigns, the WHO Director General, Margaret Chan, launched the new Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020 as a plan which focuses international attention on a long-neglected problem with the principles of human rights at its roots.

The plan has put forward the need for community based care as its centre and a greater emphasis on human rights. It also moves away from the traditional medical model and addresses income generation and education opportunities, housing and social services and other social determinants of mental health in order to ensure a comprehensive response to mental health.

Today a research report released by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has shown that Irish young people have higher rates of mental health difficulties as compared with their peers in Europe and the USA, with more than half suffering a significant problem by the age of 24. It also showed that one in five young Irish adults aged 19-24 and one in six young people aged 11-13 are experiencing mental disorder.

The ‘Mental Health Of Young People in Ireland‘ report pointed out that suffering psychological stress in early life leaves young people at increased risk during their adult years.

Professor Mary Cannon, who was involved in producing the report, said “For the first time in Ireland, we have evidence…that young people who experience mental ill-health during adolescence have higher rates of mental disorders and substance misuse during their young adult years.”

Substance misuse is a factor in the Irish context of mental health – with 75% of Irish young people having engaged in binge drinking by their mid-20s – with one in five meeting the criteria for mental health problems linked to this behaviour at some time in their lives.

And with Ireland having the fifth highest youth suicide rate in Europe, with more people dying by suicide each year than on the roads, it is important that mental health loses the stigma associated with it.


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