A "PREVALENCE of depression" among young people is "the most saddening feature of recent years", according to the future leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Archbishop Eamon Martin warned of a "creeping despair and emptiness which has tragically taken the lives of too many of our young people through suicide".
He said teachers and parents were struggling to compete with a lot of contradictory messages being hurled at young people.
These include the cult of celebrity, binge drinking, drugs and pornography, he told those attending the Annual Foundation Lecture of the Edmund Rice Schools Trustees (Northern Ireland) in St Mary's University College, Belfast.
The archbishop, who is due to succeed Cardinal Sean Brady in August, also noted that the digital age had resulted in a "breakdown in real and meaningful communication and friendships".
Recalling a recent visit to St Columb's College, Derry, he said he couldn't help thinking back 35 years to when he was a student there, and the changes that had taken place since then.
The gradual drift of people away from Mass and the sacraments meant that increasingly, people lived their lives with little or no reference to belief or trust in God, he said.