Belfast Telegraph

Mental health line calls increase

Calls for help to a mental health phone line almost doubled over the last year as the economic crisis impacted on people's lives, it has emerged.

St Patrick's University Hospital in Dublin revealed its support and information service took 1,400 calls in 2010, compared to 766 a year earlier.

Paul Gilligan, chief executive, said the service is needed now more than ever. "It has at times provided a lifeline for some callers in sincere mental health distress and we expect the demand to increase greatly in 2011," said Mr Gilligan.

"We are living through particularly difficult times. Adversity and feelings of hopelessness, despair and confusion, which are central to mental health problems are all too present in today's Ireland. This is why St Patrick's exists.

"Our purpose is to alleviate hopelessness and our support line exists as a helping hand for those who need it."

The support and information service is available Monday to Friday on 01 249 3333. People with concerns can also email info@stpatsmail.com.

Staffed by experienced mental health nurses, it gives professional advice, guidance and support for the public, health care professionals and mental health care service users.

The majority of calls last year - 1,093 - were from the general public, 111 were from health care professionals and 177 calls were from St Patrick's service users. Some 215 were about depression, 191 on addictions, 148 for anxiety and 140 needed ongoing support.

Tom Maher, director of clinical services at St Patrick's, said staff have noticed a rise in patients with new onset depression who had symptoms directly related to the economic downturn.

"However, in general we feel that more people are starting to talk about their mental health and numbers to our helpline reflect that," he added.

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