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Home > Dail Eireann debate unrevised. Mental health: statements (Resumed).

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate unrevised. Mental health: statements (Resumed). (01 Jun 2016)

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(Speaker continuing)

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: It is an extremely important phase in somebody's progress through life, for a variety of reasons. First, people between the ages of 15 and 25, particularly at the upper end, begin to realise that life may not present the opportunities they thought it would present to them, and life may not be as productive or profitable as they thought it would be for them. In many respects, as people reach their mid-20s, they are sometimes faced with a reality check about life which may not be consistent with what their ambitions are or were. That is one reason I believe there are pressures on people between the ages of 15 and 25.


 Another reason was alluded to by the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton. It is the age when people start taking mind-altering substances. As people get older, it is probably easier to deal with substances like alcohol because they have stability in their life but the mental development of people between the ages of 15 and 25 is fragile and frail and they are vulnerable. That is why taking mind-altering substances, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or taking serious hard drugs that induce psychosis give rise to potential instability in people of that age. It is something we must be aware of and it is why we need to concentrate on people of that age.


 A third reason I believe that group of people needs to be concentrated on is due to the pressures this society imposes on them. It has now become accepted wisdom that, for example, every young girl has to be intelligent, beautiful and popular and have a fantastic boyfriend - that is the message we send out from society. Similarly, every young boy who is becoming a man is supposed to be an outstanding sportsman, academically gifted and successful and is supposed to go on to become a millionaire. That is too much pressure to put onto people of that age.


 As a society, we need to start telling people of that age that they do not have to be exceptional and they are perfectly entitled to be normal. The norm in Ireland is that people are in the middle and are average and we need to respect that. We must stop putting pressure on people by saying they have to excel all the time. The reality of life, as we all know, is that the vast majority of people do not excel. The vast majority have normal abilities and cannot achieve the ambitions and overcome the pressures put on them by our contemporary society.


 As a final point on mental health, I have recently attended funerals of people who have taken their own lives. We have to send out the message that no matter how bad mental health issues are, that cannot be an option

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