A survey carried out by the Prince’s Trust was reported on today in the Belfast Telegraph..

It reports that 44 percent of young people say they have had a mental health problem.

Stress was very high affecting 68 per cent.

Anxiety was very common and 60 per cent said that they always or commonly felt anxious.

Feelings of hopelessness were present in almost a third .

Mark H Durkan SDLP health spokesman said that he was “shocked but not surprised by the findings.”

He also emphasised mental health education and the importance of  developing  resilience.  He mentioned the need for further resources.

The Belfast Telegraph article goes on to discuss the need for young people with mental health problems in Northern Ireland to have clear aims and objectives in life, as well as job opportunities. Eleven percent of young people are not in employment, education or training.

Mr Stace, UK Chief Executive at The Prince’s Trust,  said that alarm bells should ring because so many young people in Northern Ireland and across the UK feel more despondent about their emotional health than ever before.

HELPING YOUNG PEOPLE IN NORTHERN IRELAND WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS

(I love this cut glass called ‘Hands of Love’. It was given to me by a Charlie McGarry and the staff at Rosemount House. It is a reminder that our attitudes are very important. As we seek to help we will need to have ‘Hands of Love’)

I was speaking, with others, recently at a  seminar on mental health in young people at St Mark’s church Dublin. I mentioned the importance of mental health education and we discussed resilience. The church  and mental health professionals need to work together on mental health issues. Too often psychiatrists have sided with Freud who thought that God was an illusion.

On the other hand the church has often not understood mental illness well and has sometimes taught that mental illness is a result of lack of spirituality, or sin, or some other cause, thus loading the individual with guilt on top of the mental health problem.

There is however good evidence that religious practice is protective of mental health and Harold Koenig, one of the key leaders in this field, will shortly be speaking at a conference on Theology, Spirituality and Mental Health on May 12th in Belfast, and the details are under my ‘Talks’ blog on this website.

For my own part, as a retired psychiatrist and Christian Pastor, I have been doing talks for the general public on mental health issues and how faith can help.

My book,’ Mindful of the Light-practical hope and spiritual help for mental health,’ is a synopsis of some of the talks I have been doing. For example, I have a chapter on Anxiety and a corresponding chapter on Spiritual Help in Anxiety.

Spiritual help, as well as help from mental health professionals, teachers and others should be on the agenda to help the young people of Northern Ireland with mental health problems.