Young people are rarely given a voice, so I’m taking this opportunity on behalf of all the young people of Ireland to ask the Taoiseach for help. This is an appeal for action and resources for all the young people in need in Ireland.
Despite all the material comforts of modern day living, it’s still tough being a young person.
The teenage years are the most vulnerable, emotional times of a person’s life. They are often marred by confusion as individuals attempt to work out who they are, and what they want to do with their life.
Despite all that comes with being a young person, there is shockingly no designated adolescent mental health service.
Although there is a facility in Galway and one in Dublin, they are far from sufficient for young peoples needs, and even then do not cater for those aged 16-18.
Once a person reaches the teenage years, they are often no longer treated as a child, but placed in adult mental health services. A teenager has very different emotional needs to that of an adult and it seems unbelievable that there is such a gap in the system.
Ireland is seventh in Europe for the highest rate of suicide among the 15-24 age group, and judging by this it is even more important that more is done to help young people in need.
As young people are the adults of the future, it makes complete sense to inject a large amount of money into an overhaul of the mental health services. This will in turn relieve a lot of unnecessary mental health problems in the next generation of adults.
The only support for many is through voluntary organisations. However, even though this support is invaluable, resources are often inadequate due to lack of funding.
They are unable to cope with the immense numbers of people requiring the services they provide, and even then there is not a specific network for young people.
Although organisations such as Aware offer support groups that are open to teenagers, the majority of those who attend are adults which can be extremely intimidating for a young person.
It is impossible for a proper service to be provided if only between 5-10% of health funding is spent on adolescents.
“Selfish”, “spoilt”, “ungrateful”: all words I have heard in the same sentence as suicide. “The poor family” is another favourite, but I have never heard anything about the bereaved person.
Why does no one consider what the poor person was going through, or why they took such drastic measures to escape from their life? Such a stigma around mental illness prevents people from asking for help.
It’s even worse when you associate it with the stigma of being a young person.
You most likely will be greeted with a smart:
‘What have you got to be depressed about?’
‘People were never depressed in my day’
If this were the reaction from the people you love, why would you confide in a total stranger and risk humiliation? In fact, why would you risk confiding in anyone?
Instead things tend to build up, growing worse and worse until one day you snap. Everything at that moment in time is unbearable. It is then that you make the decision. It’s not that you want to die- you just need to escape from the horrible place that you’re at… it’s just too much…
Why is more not being done to prevent people from reaching this breaking point?
In recent years there has been an effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness, and to encourage people to seek help. But what the powers-that-be neglect to mention is the actual reality of asking for help.
Months of a waiting list to see a psychiatrist or counsellor is the reality facing people.
Time is precious and every second that ticks away is another that the person has not received help. To be given a prescription and told to come back in a few months, is hardly ideal, but is the reality.
It’s even worse that the waiting room that you are sitting in is filled with adults and you are the only young person there.
This is a familiar scenario for many young people who feel isolated, rejected by a mental health system that is simply not designed for them.
According to the latest Mental Health Commission figures, nearly 100 children were admitted to adult psychiatric units, in the first five months of this year. 62 per cent of all children admitted for psychiatric treatment were to adult psychiatric facilities. How can this be allowed to happen? How appropriate would it be for an adult to be treated by a paediatrician, it wouldn’t be. So why the other way round?
The HSE have been criticised for not implementing the ‘vision for change’ plan, which was introduced in 2006. It is now 2008, and is definitely more vision than reality? Both the HSE and government have failed to act on its recommendations and Irish people are suffering as a result.
The question is how many young people have to experience difficulties or die from suicide before something is done to help them? This issue has to be addressed sooner rather than later before any more lives are lost.
We’re tired of being ignored- every day that we are ignored another young person dies. So Taoiseach, When will you listen?