Life-saving services for Irish teens under pressure from social-media culture were the focus of last year’s autumn’s Mental Health Week launch as a child and adolescent therapists, the Ombudsman for Children and other experts spoke on behalf of our young people and the challenges of mental health.

The increasing prominence of social-media profiles and dynamic tech culture is increasing pressure on adolescents in Ireland, according to Dr. Colman Noctor, a child, adolescent, and young adult psychoanalytical psychotherapist. “We should try to control our way of thinking because it is important to our mental wellbeing,” he said.

He argued that we can use the improved technology of the modern world to reach many who may not otherwise be reached but he warned that people can use technology in a way that can isolate themselves as well. Instead, he said, we should be using it in a way that opens doors for individuals not just to express themselves but also to listen to and understand each other.

In addition, he pointed out how social media can be a vehicle for reaching out to others and for bringing needed meaning and purpose into lives. Now more than ever there is more information and more lifestyle options, presented particularly on social media, he said.

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, emphasized the need to protect children’s rights and respect them. “We need to talk to them, consult them, and get their views,” he said. He insisted that there should be primary health support through mental-health services and also that it should be given equal resources to physical health.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Research carried out by the WHO suggests that anxiety and stress disorders will cost the global economy over $1 trillion.

Further studies have revealed that there is a link between the increased engagement on social media and high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, especially among young adults.

According to a UNICEF report in 2017, one in 10,000 Irish 15- to 19-year-olds will die by suicide. This is despite the fact that there are many non-profit organisations in Ireland that are helping to bridge the gap that has been created by stigmatising people with mental health problems.

The young people in Ireland are not left helpless, according to Kiki Martire, the youth outreach and training officer at SpunOut.ie.  She said that there are services available to them such as educational programmes, counseling and non-judgemental listening.

See Change Ireland is supporting many young people to overcome the challenges. Zoe Forde, the See Change youth ambassador, was diagnosed with depression at 18, and later with anxiety. See Change helped her through her difficult period of poor mental health. She said that sharing about her experience is something that is greatly needed in the modern world.