Launch of children’s mental health group

CHILDREN with mental health issues are being failed at almost every turn, according to the newly formed Children’s Mental Health Coalition which was launched yesterday.

The coalition, which includes members of Amnesty International, Barnardos, Educate Together, and the Children’s Rights Alliance, among others, launched its manifesto demanding action in four key areas: the education system, children in detention, children in care, and mental health services.

The manifesto launch was preceded by a photocall outside Leinster House where children delivered 247 Christmas cards, representing each child placed in unsuitable inpatient units last year.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International and a member of the new coalition, said this was just one area in which “consistently the Government has failed to deal with the problem”.

He said Ireland had the fourth-highest rate of suicide among those aged between 15 and 24, yet up to October this year just €60,000 of the €1m allocated to staff community child and adolescent mental health teams had actually been spent.

Just 54 of the promised 99 community mental health teams have been delivered, many with one-third fewer staff than they need.

He said between 5% and 10% of the mental health budget was spent on children’s mental health services, when young people equated to 25% of the population.

The coalition also pointed to the 3,117 children on waiting lists for child and adolescent health services as recently as November last year, and similarly lengthy waiting times for children to be assessed by the National Educational Psychological Services.

He said these services were vital even during a time of recession.

“If we do not invest in these services the social and economic impact for children, their families and the state will be devastating,” said Mr O’Gorman.

Chairwoman of the coalition, Jillian Van Turnhout, said steps could be taken by Government to address these concerns and the coalition was giving the Government a two-year window in which to carry these out.

Among the measures is the full implementation of the Government’s own Vision for Change mental health strategy, and other steps such as providing child-appropriate mental health services, an end to inappropriate inpatient admission, more child and adolescent inpatient beds, and schools being equipped to deal with children with mental health issues.

“On paper Ireland is a great country to be a child, let’s move our words into action and make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child,” said Ms Van Turnhout.

Yesterday’s launch was attended by representatives of various groups, including the Irish National teachers Organisation, and backed by members of the opposition such as Fine Gael’s Alan Shatter and Labour’s Michael D Higgins.

* childrensmentalhealth.ie


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