Mayo coroner Patrick O’Connor has said that the mental-health crisis among young people seems to be strongly linked to rising drug use in Ireland, and particularly in rural areas.
The Swinford-based solicitor – a past-president of the Law Society of Ireland – has been a board member for the residential addiction treatment centre Hope House in Foxford over the last 25 years.
Young people who want to avoid the calories and sugars in alcohol are now turning to drugs, he believes, but they are heedless about the very serious consequences of dabbling in mind-altering drugs, and the consequential changes to brain chemistry and their personalities.
Hope House provides residential addiction treatment for drug, alcohol and gambling addictions.
“A residential treatment centre is very badly needed in Mayo,” he said, “such is the extent of drug abuse in the county.”
He pointed to the rise in ‘social’ use and abuse of drugs as a prime cause in the escalating mental-health crisis among young people.
“It seems that in the public financing of health services, there is a greater preponderance of weighting towards physical, rather than psychiatric and mental services,” O’Connor said.
Alcohol was a significant contributing factor in approximately 40% of the cases reported in the coronial district of Mayo in 2019.
In approximately 18-20% of cases, drugs appear to be a significant factor, the coroner confirmed.
There are approximately 500 cases reported to the coroner each year in Mayo. Of these, 120 are referred for post-mortem or autopsy. Approximately 60 inquests are held each year.
“Education, and making people aware of the significant health risks of dabbling in drugs and alcohol, need to be a priority now and in the future,” the coroner said.