UN hears from the young: Speaking up for Irish youth

Sigmund Freud didn’t have an answer to his famous — or perhaps infamous — question: what do women want?

UN hears from the young: Speaking up for Irish youth

Sigmund Freud didn’t have an answer to his famous — or perhaps infamous — question: what do women want? Hundreds of Ireland’s young adults, however, have not been short of answers this past year when taking part in a United Nations survey in which the central question was: what do you want?

The study’s findings, presented in New York yesterday by Ireland’s two UN youth delegates, are unsurprising, but for all that no less valid or worthy of the attention of policymakers in politics and industry.

Poverty, insecurity in a fragile and changing job market, and mental health were three of the big — and in some circumstances related — concerns underlined in the survey that holds up a mirror to disturbing social and economic trends that are prevalent not only in this country but throughout the Western world.

Mental health and wellbeing was rightly one of the issues flagged up most frequently in the study, which reminds us that Ireland has the fourth highest teen suicide rate among European Union and Organisation for Economic Co operation and Development member states. There is a need, say many of those who contributed to the study, for a more “accessible, age-appropriate mental health service”, yet what is not made clear is how the Government can respond positively without either cutting budgets for other frontline services or raising taxes. Similarly, there are entirely understandable pleas for government action to provide “better access to decent jobs”, though what such action might look like in a free market economy and a business landscape in which the job-for-life has been wiped out has yet to become clear.

It is to be hoped this report will be read by those at the highest levels of our government, members of which might be surprised to find that an Irish seat on the UN Security Council seems not to be on the list of what our young people want.

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