06 December, 2019

New research shows surge in number of referrals to mental health services for anxiety

Founder's Day 2019 event poster
Founder's Day 2019 explored national and international treatment approaches in the age of anxiety

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) explored the theme of anxiety at its 2019 Founder’s Day conference on 6 December, after a recent survey it commissioned found that 77% of Irish people believe that there is a worrying level of anxiety in society.

The survey also revealed that general practitioners (GPs) are seeing increases in the numbers of people with anxiety-related difficulties, with 57% of GPs now reporting that anxiety is the most common mental health condition for which they refer their patients.

Taking place in St Patrick’s University Hospital, Dublin 8, the Founder’s Day conference brought together academics, clinicians and practitioners from Ireland and abroad to explore national and international perspectives on the issue of anxiety. Now in its ninth year, the conference marked the birthday of the founder of SPMHS, Jonathan Swift, and celebrated clinical excellence in mental health.

Professor David Clark of Oxford University delivered the plenary lecture, examining psychological treatments for anxiety and the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme. Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly TD, also presented a short address on the day.

Ahead of his lecture, Professor Clark said:

“Anxiety disorders are very common, disabling and costly to society. Psychological therapies can be very effective but often aren’t available. The Founder’s Day conference tackles this issue head-on by considering what are the best treatments, how to train therapists to deliver them skillfully, and major initiatives such as the English IAPT programme that has succeeded in greatly increasing public access to effective therapy.”

Other speakers and topics for the day included:

  • Professor Mark Freeston from Newcastle University on the role of intolerance of uncertainty in understanding, formulating and treating anxiety in anxiety disorders and beyond
  • Dr Helen Kennerley of the Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre on anxiety and dissociation
  • Dr Brian Fitzmaurice of Trinity College Dublin on challenges and opportunities for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) training for anxiety disorders.

Speaking about the conference, Chief Executive Officer of St Patrick’s, Paul Gilligan, said:

“Our survey findings have shown that anxiety is a real concern in Irish society. However, the research has also shown that there are increases in the number of people presenting to their GP with anxiety. This indicates that significant progress is being made in treating mental health difficulties, as people are actively seeking help for mental health concerns through their GPs.”  “This year, Founder’s Day brings together experts in the area to share treatment approaches, clinical knowledge and progressive research with those working at the forefront of mental healthcare in Ireland. The conference marks an important opportunity to learn about effective treatments and approaches to an increasingly prevalent mental health difficulty.”

Key anxiety statistics

Key anxiety statistics

  • 77% of Irish society believe there is a worrying prevalence of anxiety (SPMHS annual stigma survey, 2019)
  • 57% of Irish GPs say that anxiety is the main mental health difficulty for which they refer patients to mental health services (SPMHS annual stigma survey, 2019)
  • Three in four parents (76%) in Ireland see an association between social media and anxiety in children (SPMHS annual stigma survey, 2019)
  • 65% of people in Ireland have had someone disclose to them that they have a mental health difficulty, with 45% of people most likely to turn to their GP if they had a concern about their own or someone else’s mental health (SPMHS annual stigma survey, 2019)
  • 56% of people in Ireland are afraid of experiencing mental health difficulties in the future (SPMHS annual stigma survey, 2019)
  • 49% of adolescents in Ireland reported levels of anxiety outside the normal range (My World 2 survey, 2019)
  • 58% of adolescents in Ireland are classified as outside the normal range for depression and anxiety (My World 2 survey, 2019)


Anxiety Disorders Programme

The Anxiety Disorders Programme at SPMHS provides support for the needs of people with a primary anxiety disorder. The programme caters for a wide range of disorders – such as panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalised anxiety disorder – and aims to increase knowledge and understanding through psychoeducation, and group and individualised psychotherapy. The programme is available for inpatients and day patients. Find out more information at the links below. 

Anxiety Disorders Programme