Sunday 4 December 2016

Bressie: 'Depression is the epidemic of this generation'

Published 22/01/2016 | 07:13

Iron man Niall Breslin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Iron man Niall Breslin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

TV presenter Bressie has told the Oireachtas Health Committee that mental health services are drastically under-resourced to cope with demand from young people today.

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The Voice judge, whose real name is Niall Breslin, suffered crippling panic attacks and insomnia in his teenage years.

He told TDs that families are driving "hundreds of miles" to access a mental healthcare professional.

He told politicians they must "accept that our mental health services and systems are not even close to being adequate or resourced for the demand and requirement that is put upon them".

"This is not a blame game or headhunt, but in order for us to build an effective long-term strategy we have to park the egos, politics and economics and put human beings first," he said.

"I have heard horror stories regarding the child and adolescent mental health services that are almost too distressing to share on this platform.

"Families totally abandoned, while some families have to drive hundreds of miles and wait months to see a healthcare professional.

"We have got to address preventative measures that can allow people deal with their mental health issues at an infancy stage and also educate others in recognising how the mind works," he added.

Bressie said that Ireland is witnessing an "epidemic" in terms of mental health problems and that young people today suffer in silence.

"They are exposed to too much. So much is expected from them and both the external and internal pressures they are being asked to cope with are simply not sustainable. And the result is the great epidemic of this generation," he said.

"Agonising suicide rates, disturbingly high anxiety and depression rates, self-harm, eating disorders, OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder] ... We simply cannot ignore this anymore."

Bressie told the Oireachtas Health Committee that there needs to be action and investment in services.

"The idea of a teenager having to be driven half way across the country after waiting two months for a referral is completely unacceptable," he said.

"Everyone in this room has to be painfully honest with each other and accept that our mental health services and systems are not even close to being adequate or resourced for the demand and requirement that is put upon them.

"It's a matter of joining the dots and building something together that can give our youth the support they require to survive in this often chaotic world.

"The draconian stigma that has ravaged families throughout Ireland for generations is slowly eroding," he added.

"We have gradually commenced normalising the conversation surrounding our mental health and this must be promoted, nurtured and celebrated at every level."

Head of the psycho-ongology department at St Vincent's University Hospital Dr Paul D'Alton also addressed the committee and said a "whole system" approach was required.

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