Saturday 17 August 2019

Eilish O'Regan: 'Poor state of our mental health service is failing sufferers as need grows'


Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The understaffing of child mental health services and the long delays to see a psychiatrist in Ireland have meant much of the debate around psychological support for young people is focused on the consulting room.

But clearly there is much more which can be done to promote good mental health and reduce the risk factors behind mental illness before it gets to that stage.

The report from Eurofound today shows young women in Ireland in particular are suffering the mental health impacts of adverse experiences, including cyberbullying, homelessness and economic inequality.

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Helping young people navigate the stresses and strains of daily life is more important than ever.

Ireland is not alone in facing a whole new set of modern pressures which can weigh heaviest on a young and vulnerable generation.

Across the EU, around 14pc of young adults are at risk of depression. And 4pc of young people aged 15-24 suffer from chronic depression.

It highlights widespread feelings of marginalisation among young people in Europe due to the economic crisis.

It points to the significant spike in child and youth homelessness in several countries since the economic crash - including in economically advanced member states like Ireland characterised by welfare states and higher levels of social spending.

In Sweden, there was a 60pc increase in children in emergency accommodation between 2011 and 2017.

In the Netherlands, the rise was also 60pc.

And in Ireland, France and Denmark around one in three registered homeless are children.

It says that despite these clear challenges young people face financial, cultural and societal barriers in accessing services.

"There is also the question of the adequacy of services in dealing with demand.

"With regards to accessing health services, there is evidence that, in addition to dealing with perceived stigma and confidentiality issues, young people also struggle with the affordability of services," it said.

Eurofound data shows that 20pc of young people cite cost as being prohibitive in the EU; this climbs to 72pc in Cyprus, 61pc in Malta and 56pc in Greece.

The cost barrier was cited by 46pc of 18-24 year olds in Ireland.

One-third of this age group in Ireland also said the waiting time for an appointment and the problem of "finding time" were also leading to issues accessing healthcare.

It points out that "young people are, comparatively, a dwindling demographic in Europe and many are not getting the support they need".

"It is often said that youth are the future, but they are also the present, and it is imperative to deliver adequate and responsive services for and with young people," Eurofound said.

It does not delve into why depression incidence among young women in Ireland is highest.

But the inadequacy of services for those who need professional help remains an obstacle to care.

The Mental Health Commission here has highlighted the ongoing scandal of admitting young people to adult psychiatric units.

There is also the variation in funding for child mental health teams around the country ranging from €40 per capita in one area to €92 in another.

Based on this report, demand is set to grow.

Irish Independent

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