Youth Mental Health is a Bigger Issue now than ever before

‘Information contained in the Mental Health Reform document makes for stark and distressing
reading. The number of children living in abject poverty, without access to education, unable to
receive vital medical care for physical health issues, or, indeed, without a secure and safe place
to call home, should make each and every one of us hang our heads in shame.
Saying that there is still more we can do is a major understatement. Until we have helped to
improve the lives of all these children and those that come after them, our duty of care and our
work will never be done.
Every Elected Representative in the House should be compelled to read the Pathfinder Project
on Youth Mental Health if they have not already done so. The aim of this project is to establish,
on a statutory basis, a cross-Governmental unit, with participation from the Department of
Health, the Department of Education and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability,
Integration and Youth. It’s objectives cover the full spectrum of Youth Mental Health issues,
which range from Assisted Decision Making, the use of Electro-convulsive Therapy in young
people, treating young people in adult psychiatric settings and the need to make in invaluable
services provided by CAHMS more widely available.
In short, it aims to bring our services for the treatment of Mental Health up to date and in line
with countries who excel in providing services for their children and young people. It is nothing
less that the young people of this country deserve and need.
Youth Mental Health is a bigger issue now than ever before.
It is estimated that one in three of our young people in Ireland will meet the criteria for an
anxiety disorder by the time they reach 18 years old. This is a shocking and very frightening statistic. It suggests that every home in this country will have a young family member suffering
from some level of unmanageable stress or some form of anxiety that could potentially impact
on their future lives. It could, in fact, impair their adult lives.
We have these predictions. We have the awareness. We also have some wonderful support
systems already in place that are continuing to grow and expand. And we also have the
opportunity now to address the issue with a united approach and a statutory solution.
Yet there remains more we can do on a day to day basis to support our young people.
As adults, we must take time to see the world from their perspective. Unless we do, we will
never understand it.
Not all causes of Mental Health problems are as serious as those I have outlined. Yet that does
not make them any less traumatic for the young person who is suffering. Pressure to succeed at
school can be a huge stressor. Outside of school the pressure can continue as only bullying and
shaming are rife At home there can be pressures within the family. Financial pressures, social
pressures, family problems. Their home, which should be their safe haven from the world,
becomes a cauldron of pressure and unhappiness.
Is it any wonder that one in three of our young people will develop and anxiety disorder?
Thankfully we have excellent service providers in Childline, Jigsaw, BelongTo, ReachOut,
SpunOut and, of course, CAHMS. Their dedicated is nothing short of amazing. They need our
continual support. Demand for their services is increasing exponentially. Without them our
young people would be cast adrift.
To conclude, I wish to pay a personal tribute to Comhairle na nOg. The Thurles subgroup have
been designated with the theme of Mental Health. Recently, they took the initiative to invite
local TDs’ to join their meetings via Zoom on Friday evenings to discuss local and National
events and ways in which to reach and engage young people in our community. Unfortunately,
Covid restrictions prevented their participation in an Awareness video to mark the very
welcome opening of Jigsaw in Thurles. However, their willingness to reach out and address
matters of importance to young people is to be applauded.
We should each share the objectives of Jigsaw, that ‘Our vision is for an Ireland where every
young persons mental health is valued and supported’ Stated Deputy Michael Lowry.