Today, youth mental health care services are at crisis point. As a result of long waiting lists children are at increased risk and conditions are exacerbated while services remain under resourced, segregated and in some cases not adequately child-centred.
Every day both through Childline and through the ISPCC’s one-to-one therapeutic services, we hear directly from children and young people about their experiences with mental health issues and in accessing mental health services. These accounts often include frustrations and increased anxieties due to waiting times, a non-child-centred approach and a failure to listen to their views. In addition we have engaged with parents who echo these concerns and their worries of exacerbating conditions due to a lack of swift or early intervention.
As a result of what young people were telling us through Childline and working directly with the ISPCC’s child and family support services, over the years the ISPCC has developed submissions and contributions in relation to the need for significant additional resources and change in Ireland’s mental health system for young people.
In 2012 the ISPCC surveyed over 14,000 children and young people on social support and the impact of close family relationships on mental health. The findings highlighted how a robust system of support can act as a buffer against stress leading to reduced feelings of anxiety and fear in young people.
A significant proportion of contacts to Childline relate to issues that are either a cause or a consequence of mental health issues for young people. In recent years tens of thousands of contacts to Childline have been in relation to mental health and specifically 10,876 calls and 3,542 online contacts in 2017.
Ensuring that the voice and best interests of children are represented in policy and at a governmental level the ISPCC, in June 2017 addressed the Seanad Public Consultation Committee on Children’s Mental Health in Ireland. Issues highlighted include the staffing and resourcing of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS); the availability and visibility of a range of early intervention and prevention services; and the need for the voice of the child to be heard in all matters relating their care and treatment.
As the landmark policy document of mental health services in Ireland A Vision for Change came to the end of its timeframe in 2016 the ISPCC has been actively engaged with policy makers and calling for an impact review to inform a renewed policy in responding to mental health. This year we made a submission to the A Vision for Change Oversight Group and made a number of recommendations in relation to children and young people and supporting their mental health.
Taskforce on Youth Mental Health
In 2016 the ISPCC became an active member of the National Taskforce on Youth Mental Health which was assembled by the then Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Helen McEntee, TD. The Taskforce published its report in December 2017. The report recommendations provide practical, evidence-based, solutions towards improving the mental health and well-being of Ireland’s youth population. The ISPCC continues to monitor the progress of the implementation of the Taskforce recommendations and believes that if implemented fully they have the potential to make a real difference in the lives of young people.
ISPCC Current Policy Priorities for Mental Health
- Influence the full implementation of Taskforce on Youth Mental Health recommendations
- Contribute to and influence the refresh of A Vision for Change