The organisation Mental Health Ireland reports that around one in four people in Ireland will develop a mental health problem at some point in their life. In 2016, around 18.5% of the Irish population was recorded by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as suffering from a mental health disorder, such as bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, or substance abuse. The OECD estimates that mental health problems cost the Irish economy over € 8.2 billion a year. Ireland has one of the highest rates of mental health illness in Europe; it is ranked at joint third out of the 36 countries surveyed in the annual Health at a Glance report. Rates of depression are above the European average. If you are an expat living in Ireland, read on for some tips about how to safeguard your mental health.Public mental healthcare in Ireland has been significantly criticised in recent years, not least by the chairman of the Irish government’s own Mental Health Commission, who has spoken of the country’s inadequate funding for mental health services.
If you have a medical card or a GP visit card, your first port of call if you think you have a mental health issue should be your GP. You may then be referred to public mental health services, which are run by the Health Service Executive (HSE). This provides a wide range of community and hospital based mental health services in Ireland.
The Irish healthcare services are striving towards a more integrated approach. Mental healthcare works on a multidisciplinary approach and may involve a number of professionals, including mental health social workers, community psychologists, GPs, and cognitive behavioural therapists.
Community psychologists have a clinical qualification and work as part of a community-based team with other professionals, such as social workers, speech therapists and community welfare officers. Mental health social workers also work as part of multidisciplinary teams, offering individual counselling and ‘psycho-education,’ working with individuals and their families to explain aspects of the mental illness in question and offering coping strategies.
If your child is affected by an issue relating to mental health, your GP may refer them to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), a service providing assessment and treatment for young people up to the age of 18, and their families, who are experiencing mental health difficulties.
There is broad agreement that Irish mental health services are overstretched, and there have been concerns that funding is increasingly being diverted from mental healthcare into other public health services. You may therefore wish to access the private sector, which you can do either in a for-profit clinic, or via one of the voluntary services, some of which are run by religious institutions.
The Pieta House, for instance, has eight centres nationwide (three in Dublin – Finglas, Ballyfermot and Tallaght – plus five overall in Tipperary, Kerry, Limerick, Cork and Galway) for the prevention of self-harm or suicide. They can match you with a therapist for twice-weekly, 50-minute sessions.
Aware, a voluntary organisation in Ireland, has a support line for anyone who is worried about depression; this operates from 10am to 10pm every day. They also offer ‘Wellness @Work’ programmes aimed at assisting your workplace to understand mental health concerns.
SpunOut.ie is a youth information website aimed at 16- to 25-year-olds in Ireland – this is one of the most at-risk demographics.
Mental Health First Aid Ireland also offers help to those developing mental health problems, or who are experiencing a mental health crisis, until either the appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis is resolved.
Ireland also has a number of branches of the Samaritans, who provide round-the-clock support for people in need. You can also contact them if you are worried about a friend. Calls are confidential and you do not have to give personal details if you do not wish to do so. You can access them by calling 116 123.
Mental Health Ireland is a national voluntary organisation aiming to promote positive mental health to all people in Ireland. The organisation has 92 Mental Health Associations throughout Ireland, which fundraise and organise events and outings for people with mental illnesses.
Jigsaw.ie, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, offers mental health support for young people. It has 13 support centres, which undertake research and provide reports on youth mental health. They also have Youth Advisory Panels throughout the country, which are made up of young volunteers.
GROW.ie is another mental health organisation, and it runs 130 groups across Ireland. It helps people with mental health problems, and holds local meetings in your area, where you can gain support and share experiences with others in your community who have had similar difficulties.
In addition to these professional services, there are a number of things you can do yourself to safeguard your mental health. If you are aware that you suffer from a mental illness, alert your GP and, if possible, your workplace, before significant problems arise. Also, try to take care of your physical health, as this can often positively impact your mental health as well. For example, make the most of the beautiful Irish countryside by going walking or swimming, join a gym, and watch your alcohol intake. Ireland has a big drinking culture, and alcohol abuse is a big contributor to mental health problems in the country. As well as the above, make sure you look after your diet. Irish cuisine has developed significantly in recent decades, and you will find some healthy produce available. If you are working in the country and are separated from your family, make sure you do not become isolated. Keep in touch, even if just by Skype or phone, and get to know your neighbours; Ireland has a friendly and supportive culture.
You should also familiarise yourself with the law, as The Employment Equality Acts, 1998 – 2011 protect people from employment discrimination, and this includes protection from discrimination on mental health grounds. This law applies whether you are finding a job, keeping a job or doing work experience or vocational training.