A leading psychiatrist has urged the Irish government to add lithium salts to the public water supply to aid the battle against suicide and depression.

Well known consultant psychiatrist Dr Moosajee Bhamjee made the call at a mental health forum on ‘Depression in Rural Ireland’ in the Clare town of Ennistymon.

The former politician told the meeting, “There is growing scientific evidence that adding trace amounts of the drug lithium to a water supply can lower rates of suicide and depression.

“A recent article in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that the beneficial uses of lithium when it was added to the water supply in parts of Texas.

“I believe the Government should consider a pilot project for a town in Ireland where lithium salts could be added to the water in very small doses and examine the results.

“There is already a strong precedent for governments intervening in the operation of public water supply for health benefits by adding fluoride.”


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Dr Bhamjee added that addiction to lithium would not be an issue according to the Irish Times.

“A community will not get hooked on lithium because the doses would be so small,” he added.

“There are 200,000 people suffering from depression in Ireland and the Government must think of new ways of tackling the problem.”

Fine Gael TD Dan Neville, chairman of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville, told delegates that the average annual suicide rate in Ireland in the 1960s was 64-65.

He revealed, “Last year, 483 people died by suicide and if you add the 123 undetermined deaths, the suicide number is over 600.

“This compares to 212 who died by road accidents, which is itself unacceptable.

“Research shows during international recessions, the suicide rate increases by 25 per cent. Ireland has the fourth highest youth suicide rate in Europe.

“Suicide is the most common death for 15 to 24-year-olds and accounts for more than those who die from cancer and road accidents combined.”

The Limerick deputy also stated: “The attitude in mental health service towards those with mental health problems should be recovery and not containment.

“Early intervention, you have 90 per cent cure and late intervention you have difficulties for life.”