Older people in Ireland are suffering a mental health “perfect storm” stirred up by the pandemic and an alarming dearth of services, the State’s mental health watchdog has warned.
The Mental Health Commission has criticised a “serious under-resourcing” of community mental health services and lack of hospital beds for older people most severely affected by the likes of depression, dementia and anxiety.
In its latest report, the watchdog says there are currently 1.2 dedicated acute mental health beds for every 100,000 older people in the country. Northern Ireland has eight times more.
Dr Susan Finnerty, the commission’s inspector of mental health services and author of the report, said the lack of services, coupled with the Covid-19 outbreak, has created “a perfect storm for the mental health of older people”.
“In addition to carrying the highest mortality and morbidity risk from Covid-19, they also experience social distancing, isolation and a heightened perception of the risk of death and illness,” she said.
“Isolation is strongly linked to depression, anxiety and cognitive decline, and reduces resilience factors such as self-worth, sense of purpose and feeling valued.”
About 15 per cent of adults in Ireland aged 60 and over suffer from a mental illness, including depression, dementia, anxiety, alcohol dependence and schizophrenia.