Children seek help as guidance hours cut
Psychologists are seeing a surge in calls from schoolchildren as a result of the reduction in school counsellor numbers, an expert was warned.
Dr Eddie Murphy, a clinical psychologist in Dublin, said he and colleagues had seen a significant rise in presentations by children who no longer have the same supports in school.
Dr Murphy, the resident psychologist on RTÉ's Operation Transformation, said a proper service needs to be put back in place.
"We need more education and it needs to be in primary and secondary schools," he said.
"The removal of the school guidance counsellor has had a major impact and is resulting in additional presentation of distress in the younger population. We see it ourselves."
Dr Murphy said that taking the support out of the class setting was impacting on the health and wellness of children. He said it was vital that we teach children to develop emotional literacy and provide them with the resilience and the ability to solve problems.
"We are seeing an increase in presentations by a very young cohort and I believe this is directly linked to the reduction of guidance counsellors' hours in schools," he said.
Dr Murphy, who opened the Psychological Society of Ireland's (PSI) annual conference in Galway, also called for a greater degree of funding for mental health services.
"Mental health accounts for just 6pc of the overall health budget. We are treading water. We would need 12pc if we are attempting to make some impact," he said.
Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon told the conference that while Ireland was starting to rebuild itself following economic devastation, the impact on children has been "enormous" and "the impact on the poorest and most disadvantaged children has been disproportionate to all others".
"We just need to look at the levels of child poverty and the large numbers of children who have been made homeless with their families to know that our society has a lot of repairing to do," he said.
"As a psychologist it is difficult to stand over such effects, but as an ombudsman it is impossible, and as both there is an opportunity to make a difference at a systemic level."
He added that the realisation of children's rights in Ireland is an "unfinished project".