One in five young adults experience mental disorder and are more likely to be involved in substance abuse, a new report has revealed.
The study from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) also found that Irish teens and young adults may have higher rates of mental ill-health than their peers in Europe and the United States.
Professor Mary Cannon, leader of the RCSI's Psychiatric Epidemiology Research across the Lifespan group, linked mental ill-health among adolescents with higher rates of drug abuse later on.
"For the first time in Ireland, we have evidence showing that young people who experience mental ill- health during adolescence have higher rates of mental disorders and substance misuse during their young adult years and are three times more likely to be unemployed than young adults who did not experience mental ill-health during their adolescence," Prof Cannon said.
"Compared to similar international studies, the findings suggest that Irish youth may have higher rates of disorder than their peers in Europe and the USA."
The research will be launched today by junior health minister Kathleen Lynch, who has responsibility for disability, older people, equality and mental health.
It found that one in five young Irish adults aged 19 to 24 and one in six youngsters aged 11 to 13 were experiencing mental disorder at the time they took part in two different studies.
The findings also indicated that high numbers of young adults aged 19 to 24 are involved in the misuse of alcohol and drugs.
Over one in five met criteria for a diagnosable substance use disorder over the course of their lives and one in 20 met criteria for an alcohol use disorder at the time of the study.
Three-quarters of young adults met lifetime criteria for binge drinking.
The research also revealed that almost one in five (19%) had thought about suicide.
The studies - the Adolescent Brain Development Study and the Challenging Times Two Study - involved surveying and interviewing more than 400 young people between the ages of 11 and 24 to assess them for the presence of mental disorders and to examine their overall level of functioning.
Ms Lynch urged young people experiencing difficulties to seek help and appealed for society to be more aware.
"We should, for example, be alert to the signs and signals of distress, promote good coping skills, embrace difference and exclude stigma," Ms Lynch said.
"The fundamental solution to meeting mental health needs, regardless of age, lies in effective partnerships where professionals, service users, families and the wider community work together."
She said the government would play its part in terms of promoting policies, services and investment for the sector.