18 May 2017
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World Family Doctor Day highlights depression and suicide in teenagers

Irish family doctors call for more psychological support for families with self-harming teenagers

Irish family doctors have called for greater support for families of teenagers who are suicidal or self-harming, as part of World Family Doctor Day (19th May).

The Irish College of General Practitioners highlighted the shortage of support services for families who have a teenager with suicidal tendencies, in particular families who are just above the income limit for the medical card.

"General practitioners manage the majority of mental healthcare presentations in the healthcare system, including anxiety, depression, self-harm and addiction. Irish GPs, in conjunction with specialist doctors and nurses in the psychiatry setting, also care for severe mental health disorders, including bipolar affective disorder and psychosis. However, mental health presentations can often be effectively managed early in their course through accessing psychological services, reducing mental health crises, referral to secondary care services and the prescribing of medications," said Dr Mark Murphy, a DĂșn Laoghaire based GP, and Chair of Communications with the Irish College of General Practitioners.

He continued: "Where public psychological services are available (such as with Counselling in Primary Care), there are often very lengthy waiting lists. Some public patients have no access to cognitive behavioural therapy, which has a stronger evidence base than medications for many presentations. Furthermore private counselling services are often prohibitively expensive for families to access. Accessing private psychological therapy for teenagers can cost over €1,000. Middle income families cannot find that money, and are unable to access free psychological services. Worldwide, suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst 15-29 year olds".

Family doctors are often the first port of call for families worried about teenagers, who can recognise depression in their patients.

Dr Murphy continued, "As family doctors, we can expect about one patient in every seven we see to be depressed. This means it is one of the most common problems we encounter. But it can also be one of the most challenging. The experience of depression causes enormous suffering. It affects patients' ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks. It can have overwhelming effects on relationships with family and friends, and interfere with the ability to earn a living. It may also lead to suicide."

World Family Doctor Day is on Friday 19 May. It was first declared in 2010 and it has become a day to highlight the role and contribution of family doctors in health care systems around the world. The event has gained momentum globally each year and it is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the central role of family practice in the delivery of personal, comprehensive and continuing health care for all of our patients. It's also a chance to celebrate the progress being made in family medicine and the special contributions of family doctors all around the world.

Follow the Twitter hashtag #WFDD on Friday 19 May.

Click here for more information on World Family Doctor Day.

Media queries

Aileen O'Meara
Communications Consultant
Irish College of General Practitioners
Email: media@icgp.ie
Tel: 087 2239830 / 01 5175311

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