Centre sees 'shocking' number of children as young as 10 seeking help for anxiety

By Louise Walsh

Children as young as 10 years old are seeking help from a Meath support centre for issues surrounding anxiety and suicide.

Seven kids aged between 10 and 15 contacted the Navan centre of Save Our Sons And Daughters (SOSAD) in four months last year, many already self-harming.

Previously, the centre may have experienced calls from one or two children for the entire year, according to SOSAD co-ordinator Marie Johnston.

Describing the situation as "shocking", she is now appealing to the Government for more funding and resources on the matter.

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

"We have seen seven children come to our office looking for support from October until Christmas last year.

Marie Johnston at the SOSAD offices in Navan. Pic: Seamus Farrelly.

"In previous years, we might have been contacted by at most one or two children for the entire year and that's still far too many."

Marie said that many of the children were self-harming and suffering because of 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," she added.

"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 huge effects on their children.

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

Marie, who became involved in the voluntary organisation SOSAD after her own son Brian died by suicide 10 years ago at the age of 17 believes existing resources are over-stretched.

She said: "I used to wish that I had someone who would listen to me when I was trying to help Brian.

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

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

"Parents often can't afford the high costs of getting their child psychological help and the waiting lists at funded services can be lengthy."

SOSAD Navan provides aid to over 90 people who walk through their doors at Cannon Row each week and they gave 4,500 hours of counselling last year.

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