Saturday 23 March 2019

'It's shocking - kids as young as 10 are thinking of suicide' says Johnston

Children need more support
Children need more support

Ten-year-old children are seeking help from a Meath support centre for issues such as anxiety and suicidal thought.

Seven children aged between 10 and 15 contacted charity SOSAD's Navan centre in four months in 2017, many of them already self-harming.

Previously the centre would have had calls from only one or two children over the entire year, said SOSAD co-ordinator Marie Johnston.


Describing the situation as shocking, she is now appealing to the Government for more resources.

"It is shocking and distressing to see children - who should be out playing and enjoying life - feel so down that they are thinking of suicide.

"Seven children came to our office looking for support between October and Christmas last year. In previous years, we might have been contacted by at most one or two children for the entire year - and even that's far too many."

Johnston said many of the children were harming themselves and suffering for a multitude of reasons.

"Unfortunately, one size doesn't fit all. Children are stressed because of bullying or social media, bereavement or problems at home.

"We are finding that many kids are self-harming, and anxiety is a huge issue now among children and young people.

"Kids often blame themselves for fights between parents or their parents splitting up. Sometimes it's hard for parents to understand how their actions can have a huge effect on their children.

"We need to take more responsibility to make sure children are allowed just to be children."

Marie, who became involved in the voluntary organisation after her son, Brian, committed suicide 10 years ago, aged 17, believes existing resources are over-stretched and over-staffed.

"I used to wish I had someone who would listen to me when I was trying to help Brian," she added.

"I thought if I could talk to someone, then it would free my head to think how I could help my son more.

"Now I am that person, ready to listen, one of hundreds who would like to do more but can't because of funding constraints.

"Parents often can't afford the high cost of getting their child psychological help, and waiting lists can be lengthy."

SOSAD Navan provides aid to over 90 people a week.

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