Alcohol is having a devastating impact on our young people’s mental health – Minister McEntee

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National Taskforce on Youth Mental Health discusses the damage alcohol is doing to the mental health of our young people in the context of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Helen McEntee today (Wednesday) reiterated her support for the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. The Minister was speaking after the National Taskforce on Youth Mental Health discussed, at its recent meeting, the damage alcohol is doing to the mental health of our young people in the context of the Bill.

Minister McEntee said that Ireland has an intrinsically unhealthy relationship with alcohol. “The human cost of this unhealthy relationship is devastating, particularly when it comes to mental health. It is clear from the evidence that alcohol is a significant factor in the self-harm and suicide of too many of our young people.”

“Alcohol is a contributory factor in half of all suicides and the risk of suicide when a person is abusing alcohol is eight times greater than if they were not abusing alcohol, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Irish men aged 15 to 24. Approximately 48% of sixth year students at second level and over 60% of young adults report drinking behaviour outside of the normal range.”

“Alcohol also has a significant impact on the number of young people who self-harm. The 2014 annual report of the National Self-Harm Registry found that alcohol was involved in 35% of all cases of self-harm.”

“Alcohol is responsible for a considerable burden of harm to people’s health. It costs our health system at least €1.5 billion annually, money that it can ill afford. Every night, an estimated 1,500 hospital beds are occupied for alcohol-related conditions, such as cancers and liver disease, while alcohol-related injuries and accidents and place huge pressure on our A&E departments, particularly at weekends.”

“I strongly believe the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will begin to change the environmental factors which facilitate our unhealthy relationship with alcohol. This is a vital piece of legislation, which was part of the Programme for Government, and I would like to commend my colleague Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy for her pioneering work on it. This Bill will protect the health and wellbeing of future generations, and indeed will save lives.”