The reality of mental health for young people in Ireland

By Marie Duffy

I live in a country which has experienced huge wealth and prosperity over the last decade, but I feel that one of the fundamental flaws of our government and health service is the fact that there is no specific mental system for young people going through a tough time.

At the moment there is an adult mental health system and a children’s mental health system but if you are a young person itseems that you don’t even exist.

Once a person reaches the teenage years they are often no longer treated as a child but placed in adult 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 mental health service. As a result young people are left feeling isolated and alienated by a mental health system that is simply not designed for them.

According to the last year’s 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. In today’s modern age this is simply not good enough. We need to protect our young people during tough times, as the mental health of a young person is an important part of what makes them the adult they become. Our young people are the Ireland of the future, so why are we not doing more to ensure our future is protected?

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. Young people deserve the opportunity to experience positive mental wellbeing. This can only be achieved through physical, emotional, spiritual development. In order for this to be possible young people need to live in a world that doesn’t discriminate against them or marginalise them. This can often happen in today’s modern society which often highlights the negative aspect of youth culture. As a result young people are left disenchanted and disempowered.

So how do we change this? The answer does not just lie with medical professionals or politicians, but it is up to all of us to come together as individuals and as whole communities to support young peoples’ journey to adulthood.

So start by doing one thing today, just think of that young person who is sitting alone in a dark room contemplating suicide. Reach out to them and let them know that they’re not alone. Give them someone to turn to. Listen to what they have to say. It could make the difference between life or death.

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