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News / September 1, 2023

High rates of mental ill-health discovered among 16-year-olds

by Rowan Thomas

mental ill-health in Northern Ireland

New research suggests that 45.2% of 16-year-olds experience mental health problems, revealing the extent of mental illness in Northern Ireland.

This is according to data published by Dr Nicole Bond and Professor Siobhán O’Neil, Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland.

The statistics were further stratified by gender, suggesting that mental health problems are more prevalent in girls than boys. While 52.9% of 16-year-old girls met the criteria for mental ill-health, the number was comparatively lower for boys at 32.8%.

This information was gathered through a section on mental health in the 2023 Young Life and Times and Kids’ Life and Times survey. The survey also found wellbeing among 11-year-olds to be at its lowest point since 2016.

Questions centred around the issues that young people are worried or stressed about. Many reported relationships with family and peers, pressure at school and household finances as sources of stress.

This stress was seen to increase greatly between the 11- and 16-year-olds, with 80% of 16-year-olds reporting pressure at school compared to 39.1% among the 11-year-olds.

‘Reduce the burden of suffering’

Professor O’Neil said: ‘Mental ill-health costs Northern Ireland at £3.4 billion annually, and we know the most cost effective approach to reducing the burden of suffering is through early intervention and prevention, particularly in relation to early years, parenting, psychological therapies and addressing bullying in schools.’

She also described the ‘policy responses’ that could help to improve the mental health of young people in Northern Ireland.

‘This study identifies the sources of stress and worry for children and young people and highlights the policy responses that are needed to address these issues and improve young people’s lives.

‘Funding for the continued implementation of the Mental Health Strategy is vital so that our services can deliver effective treatments for young people with a mental illness.

‘In addition, social policies which address poverty and inequality are necessary to reduce the burden of suffering as well as the economic cost of mental ill-health in the longer term.’

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