Mental illness affects one in six children
ONE in six Irish children between the ages 11 and 13 suffers from mental illness.
And by the time they reach adulthood, the rate increases to one in five, a study found.
A further 75pc of young adults are binge drinkers and almost one in five consider suicide at some point.
The research from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) "suggests that Irish youth may have higher rates of disorder than in Europe and the USA".
Study reviewer professor Pat McGorry, of the University of Melbourne, described the findings as a "wake-up call".
"This research tells us very clearly that there is an urgent need to enhance services, supports and policies," he added. Professor Mary Cannon, of the RCSI, said the study was the first time such evidence had been gathered in Ireland.
It showed that people who suffer mental health issues at a young age were more likely to have similar issues and abuse substances in young adulthood.
Mental Health Minister Kathleen Lynch, who launched the report, urged action.
She stressed the collective duty on everyone to "foster a culture whereby all those in difficulty, and young people in particular, do not hesitate to seek help when needed".
She added: "We should be alert to the signs and signals of distress, promote good coping skills, embrace difference and exclude stigma."
The fundamental solution, she claimed, lay in partnerships between professionals and the wider community.
Prof Cannon also appealed to any young person "who thinks they may have a mental health issue not to suffer in silence and to seek help from the many sources available".
Professor McGorry said the research "should be the only wake-up call that people need".
"There is a need for mental health services catering to young people between the ages of 15 and 25," he added.
He also pointed out that these young people did not fit well into the current adult services.
"Without access to appropriate support services at the right time, a young person's chances of operating and functioning well in society as adults are severely limited," he said.