Online doctor service WebDoctor.ie saw a 240% increase in the number of mental health-related consultations from January 2020 to August 2021.
The online doctor service has also seen a 210% increase in the overall number of consultations from the same dates.
‘This increase reflects a “tsunami” of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, which have manifested during the pandemic,’ explains WebDoctor’s clinical director Sylvester Mooney. Mental health issues such as reactive depression and anxiety affected all ages and demographic groups.
Anxiety surrounding the reopening of society
There has been a 76% increase in anxiety levels among Irish people, according to WebDoctor.ie. There are significant mental health concerns regarding the reopening of society as universities, workplaces, and schools get back to normal.
Aware, who provide free support and education services to those impacted by depression, anxiety, and mood-related disorders saw an 80% increase in the number of helpline calls they received in April, May, and June of 2020 compared to the same months in the previous year.
The organisation are currently seeing concerns arise over the anxiety surrounding the reopening of society. ‘People are anxious to return to the workplace and return to in-person social settings, explains Stephen McBride, director of services at the depression charity Aware.
Young women and eating disorders
WebDoctor.ie have also observed a doubling of reported depression from 9% to 19%, and rates of eating disorder in young women have also increased by a very significant 41%.
There are no nationally dedicated adult in-patient public beds for people with eating disorders. Instead, eating disorder in-patients are treated in general or psychiatric hospitals. Given that the most recent CSO figures also show that suicide was, and remains, the biggest cause of death among Ireland’s young adults under 24 with men particularly at risk, it’s clear that a major post-Covid mental health crisis is well underway.
Dr Mooney stated that ‘many younger people who are presenting to our GP’s have been seriously impacted over the last 18 months. They’ve had significant disruptions to their college education, lost opportunities for important social interaction, their career prospects have been damaged. For a lot of patients we see, they’re very anxious and nervous about what the future may hold.’
Mental health support and funding
With HSE levels of mental health funding at only 5%, which is very low by international standards (the UK is at 13%), it seems apparent that the mental health sector needs much greater levels of funding support.
When asked about the level of funding for mental health services in Ireland due to this significant increase in pandemic-inflicted anxiety levels, neither the HSE nor Minister of Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler responded to our request to comment.
Dr Mooney believes that we are only now starting to see the fallout from the Covid pandemic on mental health.