Saturday 17 August 2019

Young women in Ireland have the highest levels of depression in Europe

Making voices heard: Annie Duffy from Monaghan during a Psychiatric Nurses Association protest at Leinster House, Dublin over union recognition. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Making voices heard: Annie Duffy from Monaghan during a Psychiatric Nurses Association protest at Leinster House, Dublin over union recognition. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Young Irish women are suffering the highest levels of moderate to severe symptoms of depression among their generation in the EU, a new report reveals.

The study highlights how the pressures on teenagers and young women from cyberbullying, eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia, and homelessness are taking a severe toll on their mental health.

The extent of psychological anguish felt by women aged 15-24 years shows worrying levels of hidden mental health struggles.

In most European countries, women in this age group were more likely to suffer from depression than young men, the report from Eurofound, the EU agency for the improvement of living and working conditions, shows.

But the greatest gender gaps are in Ireland, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

Some 17pc of this age group of women in Ireland report being moderately or severely depressed compared to an EU average of 9pc.

Only in Cyprus, Greece and Lithuania were there higher percentages of young men with depressive symptoms.

"Across the EU, 14pc of young adults are at risk of depression," it said. "And 4pc of young people aged 15-24 suffer from chronic depression."

Child and youth homelessness have increased dramatically in several member states in the past decade, it warned.

In Ireland, France and Denmark around one in three registered homeless are children.

At the same time, a significant proportion of young people in Europe face difficulties accessing vital health and public services. Ian O'Grady, president of the Psychological Society of Ireland, said anxiety is one of the main difficulties that young people are encountering in the modern age.

"Psychologists can, and should be, to the forefront of support for young people in this area due to the range of evidence-based interventions at their disposal," he said.

Supports

However, recent HSE figures have indicated that only 38pc of the recommended number of psychologists are working in the HSE's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

He said children and young people who are in need of the service should have access to the full range of multi-disciplinary supports available.

The report added: "There are also indicators that young women are more likely to handle upsetting events internally - a factor linked to depression.

"These include higher rates of self-harm and eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, among this group compared to young men."

The stark insight into the level of distress comes as mental health services for young people remain in crisis.

At the end of March, there were 2,738 children waiting for mental health treatment.

The numbers waiting over a year jumped 336, up from 296 in February.

Fianna Fáil's spokesman on mental health James Brown said: "That's 336 children and adolescents along with their families enduring an agonising 12-month wait for services needed in the here and now.

"The worst impacted service is in Cork and Kerry - which accounts for 274 of the young people waiting 12 months plus," he added.

Irish Independent

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