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Youth report shows rising anxiety

Thursday, 9th August, 2018 9:17am

Young people in Ireland are seeking help for anxiety more than any other mental health difficulty. This is according to new data from Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health.

Data released this week as part of the organisation’s annual report gave an overall picture of youth mental health nationwide in 2017.

Encouragingly, it also suggested that Jigsaw’s early intervention model is proving effective in alleviating mental health issues among the 12-25 year olds to whom Jigsaw provides mental health services free of charge.

According to the organisation’s figures, 39 per cent of those who came to Jigsaw for help in 2017 reported experiencing anxiety.

That figure was higher than the percentage reporting any other single symptom, including low mood (31 per cent), stress (25 per cent), sleep changes/issues (17 per cent), anger (15 per cent), family problems (14.5 per cent), isolation/withdrawal (14 per cent), self-criticism (12 per cent), low self-esteem (12 per cent), and thoughts of self-harm (11 per cent).

The percentage of those reporting anxiety has also increased by seven per cent over three years.

Dr Gillian O’Brien, Director of Clinical Governance at Jigsaw, said that while some of the contributory factors toward anxiety, including parental separation, trauma, and exam stress, are not new, others have become more acute in recent years.

She explained: “There is a deepening sense of uncertainty amongst many young people we support in relation to their sense of identity and place in this fast paced, evolving world.

“High expectations of self are one key driver of anxiety, which can be compounded by the expectations of parents, teachers, and society at large.”

Dr O’Brien perceived a positive development, however, in the increasing number of young people who are comfortable proactively seeking help with mental health issues, and talking about their feelings to mental health professionals.

As well as this, almost three quarters of 17-25 year olds who used Jigsaw’s services reported a significant reduction in their psychological distress as a result of the help they received.

This is important because identifying incipient issues is key to success in treatment, especially among adolescents and young adults, said Dr Joseph Duffy, Jigsaw CEO.

“We know that more than 75 per cent of mental health problems emerge before the age of 25,” he said.

“Early intervention is about taking action as soon as possible to tackle problems for young people before they become more damaging and difficult to reverse,” he added.

Jigsaw supported 4,300 young people nationwide in 2017.

It was a year which saw the organisation opening three new services in partnership with the HSE in Cork, Dublin and Limerick.

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