December 6, 2011

  Adding lithium to tap water 'could cut depression rates'
Text: iii Adding ijthium to tap water 'could cijit depression rates' by Claire O'Suillvan THE Government should consider adding lithium salts to tap water in an effort to lower depression rates, a consultant psychia- trist has suggested.

Former Clare TO, Dr Moosajee Bhamjee, cited British Journal of Psychia- try research from Austria which found that "geo- graphic regions with high- er natural lithium concen- trations in drinking water are associated with lower suicide mortality rates".

In the 10 most lithium- depleted regions in Aus- tria, the suicide rate was 16 suicides per 100,000 people, but in the 10 most lithium-rich regions, the suicide rate was just 11 per 100,000, the study found.

Lithium is used in tablet form to treat depression and bi-polar disorder.

Dr Bhamjee said: "I made my comments at the local mental health forum as the minister was there and it was something for the minister to think about. We are not talking about doing this in very high levels, but in low doses, nothing like the levels that would be used by somebody who was severely depressed.

"Remember lithium is a naturally occurring salt in the environment and if added to tap water would improve the mood of the community." However, director of the Cluain Mature service in south Co Dublin, Dr Siobhan Barry, described adding lithium to tap water as a "rather blunder- buss approach" and that "more reasonable ap- proaches" could be taken.

"Ending below-cost selling of alcohol, reducing the number of outlets that can sell alcohol and increasing excise duty would have a notable im- pact on depression levels and would benefit the community as a whole." Also speaking at the North Clare Mental Health Forum, president of the Irish Association ofSuicidology, Dan Neville,said mental health practi-tioners are failing to listento the families of patients.

"Too often I have metfamilies who are contusedand concerned becausethey aren't fully informedabout the treatment planfor their relative. Patientconfidentiality is quoted asthe reason. But familymembers are key to identi-fying someone in dangerof losing their life. Toooften, I receive complaintsprofessionals do not listento the family, sometimeswith dire consequences."