Monday 20 August 2018

Early intervention will ease mental health suffering

We need to bring about an Ireland where every young person's mental health is supported, writes Joseph Duffy

This is a posed photo
This is a posed photo

Joseph Duffy

Watching the RTE documentary The Big Picture - Young and Troubled last Thursday night was not an easy experience. Nor was it intended to be. It delivered a message to say that we need to do something different, something immediate and something radical to better look after our young people and their mental health.

Mental health can be complex but how we respond to it need not be. We know that the mental health system is weakest where it needs to be strongest. Adolescence is a particularly vulnerable time as 75pc of all adults who go on to experience long-term mental health difficulties experience their first problem before the age of 18. In this country we have long focused on crisis and chronic mental health difficulties. These are important areas and issues but it's not the full or even the 'big picture' on mental health.

If we are ever going to change things, we need to think about the mental health system as a whole. We need to shift the narrative to talk about prevention and early intervention. We are seeing a growing vocal generation of young people who are more willing to speak about what they think, how they feel and what keeps them awake at night. These young people are aware that all is not well. They are willing to talk to each other, to use the internet to find answers to their worries and concerns and, for those fortunate to have access to a 'One Good Adult' in their lives, they are willing to open up to them. How can we ensure that our young people are able to look after themselves and others?

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