Objectives: This study describes the social, demographic and clinical characteristics of all the new referrals in a mental health catchment area. This study aims to compare Irish and non-Irish service users in terms of their mental health needs and service utilization.
Method: Case notes were reviewed retrospectively to investigate demographic, clinical and service utilization parameters among new referrals to the psychiatric services in Galway, Ireland over a six-month period.
Results: One hundred and fifty-four new referrals, of whom 41 were non-Irish, presented over a six-month period. Results showed no difference between Irish and non-Irish service users in terms of socio-demographic variables. Alcohol problems and subsequent need for detoxification and counselling were significantly higher among service users from the new EU accession states with a significant impact on the duration of their hospital stay and the need for intensive psychiatric care.
Conclusions: There is an urgent need for enhanced resources for the delivery of mental healthcare to immigrants. Service utilisation and mental health needs are not explained merely by illness-related aspects in immigrant service users. Social and cultural factors have to be recognised in order to prevent disadvantages in psychiatric care.