The chief executive of St Patrick's Mental Health Services has said the pandemic has had a significant psychological impact on people with an increase of 15-20% in reports of mental health difficulties.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Paul Gilligan said that mental health services are struggling with staffing but that collaboration between independent, voluntary and statutory groups means there are plenty of supports available for people.

He said: "We need to give people permission to acknowledge [their difficulties] while also focusing on empowerment, recovery and optimism and emphasising that people should not underestimate their own inner resilience."

He said that with the appropriate support people "can and should expect to live a fulfilling life".

Mr Gilligan said that research with the National Parents Council shows that over 60% of parents are expressing concerns over children, with an increase in presentations of 20% over last two years.

He said that staff shortages are a real difficulty and while telephone and internet-based services are assisting, more has to happen.

"We need to sit down and address serious problems in children and adolescent healthcare that need to be addressed," he added.

St Patrick's Mental Health Services is launching a four-week programme of wellbeing events from today called the 'Walk in My Shoes' campaign.

It is a free, online, interactive programme of events and workshops to ask people to make their mental health a priority and focus on their wellbeing.

Mr Gilligan said the programme is "about trying to protect your mental health and build up your psychological resilience".

The programme features events aimed at the classroom and at families.