herald

Sunday 19 January 2020

One-in-three teens struggle with mental health issues - study

CDI chief Marian Quinn. Photo: Conor Healy Photography
CDI chief Marian Quinn. Photo: Conor Healy Photography

Up to one third of young people in Tallaght suffer mental health difficulties and face major problems accessing services, new research has revealed.

The report, commissioned by the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) and carried out by Trinity College Dublin, researched the needs of 12 to 18-year-olds living in the area.

It found that among the 11,000 young people in Tallaght, up to 33pc - 3,654 - suffer from anxiety, 31pc (3,434) from depression and 20pc (2,201) from stress. Among these, up to 12pc experience severe anxiety, 9pc severe depression and 6pc severe stress.

The report, The In-Betweeners: Identifying and quantifying the unmet mental health needs of children and adolescents in Tallaght, also researched the experiences of parents and service providers.

The findings showed a major shortage of services, and even after formal diagnosis, many young people were still not necessarily able to access them.

This is especially the case where young people have a "dual diagnosis" with more than one difficulty.

Key recommendations are for the development of outreach services, including a national network of 24/7 drop-in community mental health facilities, and the integration of awareness and counselling services in schools.

Challenges

Addressing waiting lists is also a major recommendation and requires appropriate resourcing based on the numbers of known young people experiencing challenges.

The report recommends that people should not be waiting more than two weeks to be seen.

CDI chief Marian Quinn said the research showed the scale of the challenge to tackle service shortages.

"In the Tallaght region alone mental health services should plan for 1,500-2,000 young people," she said.

"This calculation should be replicated at a national level in order to determine the quantity of services required throughout the country."

Repeated confusion was reported by both health professionals and parents about accessing services and the consistency of referral processes.

Both medics and parents said drop-in, one-stop shop and 24/7 services are needed.

"People in immediate distress need a service 'on the day'. A dedicated service could also offer expertise on referral pathways and for emerging challenges such as homelessness," the report said.

It also recommended mental health supports being more strongly integrated into the school system.

"Greater working with schools would help in normalising and naming the emotions and feelings for all teenagers, in reaching students who may be reluctant to seek out counselling," the study said.

The report was co-authored by Elizabeth McCarthy Quinn and Professor Catherine Comiskey.

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