Issues & Solutions
Our four organisations have put together a list of crucial issues that we are currently seeing in youth mental health, and the first steps we can take towards tackling them. This is a positive campaign, so we are providing positive, tangible solutions that can be implemented today. We know this is just the beginning, but that's a good place to start.
What are the issues?
- Most mental health problems (75%) are already developed by the age of 24.
Our young people are those most impacted by the onset of mental health problems and they need support and resources now to ensure the development of positive mental health, as well as support for young people already experiencing mental health difficulties.*
- 'Mental health' is generally understood to mean 'mental disorder'.
It should also be seen as a positive asset, a strength that needs to be cultivated by all young people. Currently there is a lack of support services to help young people effectively navigate their way through life and be prepared for the ups and downs that may come.
- Mental health is currently seen as a marginal issue.
But international studies are now accepting that one in two of us will develop a mental disorder at some point in our lives. That's a friend, a sibling, a parent. And that means everyone is affected somehow, and it should matter to us all.**
- As we keep saying, at least 1 in 5 Irish young people are experiencing a mental health crisis at any given time and in a given year, nearly 1 in 10 will self-harm as a way of coping.
We're saying this as often as we can because we need to recognise the pain that many young people are in and provide a range of supports that work for them..***
- Young people people often don't know how to get help.
The internet and friends are where young people often turn for support for mental health problems, rather than to adults or health professionals. If traditional supports aren't accessible to young people we need to develop new ways of reaching out to them.****
What are the first steps toward solutions?
- We can extend the SPHE programme to cover the senior cycle in secondary schools - a curriculum has already been developed.
- We can resource and enable a whole-school approach to student support in every school that incorporates a range of existing programmes, in order to meet the needs of all students in an inclusive way.
- We can invest in safe and clinically sound online support services, according to clinical best practice.
- We can consolidate and support voluntary sector organisations that provide youth friendly mental health services that meet a need which statutory services currently don't meet.
- We can provide and support programmes to promote positive mental wellbeing. All young people need these programmes to develop their inner strength, their resilience and their ability to navigate difficulties and challenges in their lives.
- We can build capacity among existing youth services to support marginalised young people who are particularly at risk of experiencing mental health problems, including services for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender young people, travellers, migrants and refugees.
- We are not talking about creating an expensive alternative infrastructure - there is a strong network of youth services in Ireland with many years experience of working directly with young people. We are talking about enhancing the capacity of those services.
* Kessler et al, Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005.
** Moffitt et al, Psychological Medicine, 2010.
*** Health Service Executive Clonmel Project, 2006 and NSRF Young People's Mental Health Report, 2005.
**** Unpublished data from Headstrong's 'My World Survey', 2009