Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Youth mental health - new evidence highlights need for early intervention

10 March 2015
According to research, over half of young Irish people will meet the criteria for a mental health disorder at some point before 25 years of age. 

This is according to an Irish study, known as The Challenging Times, the findings from which are featured in the recent Special Youth themed Edition of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. The papers published from this study reveal, not only high rates of mental ill-health during adolescence and into young adulthood, but also the serious risks for young people who experience mental health difficulties during adolescence, including higher rates of unemployment during their young adult years. The study involved detailed clinical interviews with young Irish people from a representative sample of schools in North Dublin, first at age 12-15 years and later when they were aged 19-24 years.

The findings reinforce the importance of early intervention in order to maximise the functional outcomes for adolescents with mental disorders to give young people the best chance to get well and get on with having full, productive and normal lives. A case made by leading advocates in the youth mental health movement in a number of editorials in the special edition of the journal.

This special edition focuses on the importance of research in identifying the needs and vulnerabilities of young people and was inspired following the adoption of Youth Mental Health as the official annual theme by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, in 2013. The College released a submission paper at this time stating that despite the perception that “the health and wellbeing of young people has never been better’ in fact the ‘evidence points to high rates... of psychological distress and mental disorder among young people’. Much of the work in this Special Issue was funded by the Health Research Board (Ireland).

Associate Editors, Professor Mary Cannon and Dr. John Paul Lyne began this timely endeavour to capture the excellent work which many high profile Youth Mental Health researchers are conducting both in Ireland and abroad, and harness ongoing momentum in this important area.

Professor Mary Cannon, (RCSI & Beaumont Hospital), says ‘It is time to start focussing on providing specialised services catering for the need of young people particularly during the transition from adolescence into young adulthood. This can be a difficult time with many challenges for vulnerable youth. The reality is that our existing services simply cannot respond to the level of need among Irish youth. New models of service are required.’ 

Dr. John Lyne (North Dublin Mental Health service) says ‘This comprehensive edition provides a clear focus on young people’s mental health today. The quality contributions from both Ireland and internationally highlight the desire for reform in this area, which would be a positive investment for the future.’

The research in this Special Issue highlights the problems that still exist and the gaps in services for young people. It encompasses work on prevalence rates and risk factors for mental ill – health among Irish young people and also papers describing innovative youth mental health developments in UK, Canada and Australia. The Special Issue also includes a powerful first person account from a young person, Lisa Butterly, who has experience in transitioning from child to adult mental health services in Ireland. 

The special edition of the journal is available from