Most young people with mental health problems self-refer for treatment or their parents

A study in the west of Ireland has found that the majority of young people with mental health problems are referred for initial treatment by themselves or their parents. This is much more than what doctors or schools tell us.

The study focused on people aged 12 to 25 also found that less than one in five required more substantial psychological support outside community-based early intervention services, suggesting that the latter is a model that could reduce pressure on oversubscribed HSE care.

Gary Donohoe, professor of psychology at the University of Galway, who led the research, said it was unclear why 78 per cent of all referrals were from people needing help or their parents.

That said, in my experience GPs are very good at being sensitive to the needs of young people and their families, so I don’t think there is a problem.

The evidence we have to draw on shows what happens when young people and their families experience difficulty. , , It is exceptionally difficult for people to know where to turn.

The study used a sample of 1,184 participants who attended the HSE-funded Mindspace Mayo, a youth service similar in approach to the national organization for youth mental health Jigsaw. Which places more emphasis on signposting options.

Parents accounted for 40 per cent of referrals and self-referrals by young people accounted for 38 per cent. Other less common pathways include schools and teachers, guidance counselors and GPs.

About one in five (17 per cent of the sample) require more specialized care, usually provided by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (Camhs).

In a recent interview, HSE Chief Executive Bernard Gloster said that Cams was under considerable pressure. Earlier this year it had 4,450 people on its waiting list.

The study, published in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, said the most common reasons for referral were mood and anxiety-related issues.

Most of the problems young people face are normal understandable difficulties experienced in coping with life; The thing that worries you, the thing that you worry about, said Professor Donohoe.

One in five people who visit CAMS usually have problems that require more specialist care. This includes psychosis, eating and mood disorders.

You should only go to another level of CAMS or the adult mental health system [Amhs] When you need it because of the seriousness or complexity of the problem.

Up until this point we were kind of working in a vacuum. [early intervention] Investments in services began to be made by the Irish government. If you talk to colleagues in camhs and amhs, they’ll say there’s a flood of people coming into the service and you’re trying to differentiate between the people who really need to be there, those people who don’t. Among those who are not.

Women were more likely than men to self-refer (42 per cent compared with 32 per cent), while GP referral was slightly more prevalent among men than women (6.3 per cent and 4.8 per cent). Participants received an average of six sessions of therapeutic support.

According to the World Health Organization, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability among youth aged 10 to 24 years.

The study said that in Ireland, 18.5 percent of the population was found to be suffering from a mental health disorder in 2016.

Donohoe said early treatment of issues like anxiety is especially important to prevent it from escalating.

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