Youth mental health services ‘beyond emergency’ stage

Youth Mental Health Services ‘Beyond Emergency’ Stage
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By Michelle Devane, PA

The head of a youth charity has warned Ireland’s youth mental health services are “beyond emergency” stage.

Spunout chief executive Ian Power said it is a “huge injustice” to young people that services are not available at the level that is needed.


He described youth suicide rates as “way too high”, adding health services are “not coping”.

“We’re beyond crisis stage, we’re beyond even the emergency stage,” Mr Power told the PA news agency.

“We’re at the highest in Europe in terms of youth suicide, we’re always in the top five, top 10.

“There has been improvements in other countries’ numbers, whereas Ireland has remained sticky and it hasn’t improved.


“We don’t have an expectation that the rate is necessarily going to increase, because potentially it’s already at its peak. The issue is that it’s just not improving.”

Mr Power said the numbers contacting the youth NGO’s listening service are also “not abating”.

He said about one fifth of the 4,000 calls volunteers deal with each month relate to suicide.

“There is an increase in young people reaching out and and looking for help, which is brilliant,” Mr Power said.


“It’s great to see that stigma is reducing but the issue is that the services are just not coping, and they’re not providing timely responses to young people when they need it.”

He also said young people’s mental health issues are “escalating” and becoming “much more acute” because they are not able to access preventative, early intervention services where they can talk about the issues they are experiencing.

“There’s a huge missing hole in the mental health services in terms of talking therapies,” he said.



“Those who had who can afford it can access private talking therapies, but even then, there’s actually waiting lists for those now at this point because there are so many people trying to access good quality talking therapies as well. So, that’s the big concern really, for us.”

The peak onset of mental health illness is typically between the age of 15 and 25 years.

He said: “It’s a huge injustice that mental health services aren’t where they need to be for young people because it is the number one health issue that they experience.

“That’s really where our frustration comes from as well in that, not only should we be trying to set young people up so that we’re giving them the coping skills that they need as they go on in life, but also, it’s that time in their lives when they actually need [the support] the most.”

Mr Power said there has been huge discussions about the problems with the HSE’s Child and Adolescence Mental Health Services (Camhs) but “the vast majority of the need is outside of Camhs entirely”.

He added there is not strong enough accountability for the HSE’s mental health services.

“It’s shocking that there are clinical guidelines for how Camhs services should be provided around the country and that there’s a huge level of of non-adherence to those guidelines, which are just the basics for running a service,” he said.

Mr Power described it as “very short-sighted”  on the Government’s and health service’s behalf not to adequately staff services that do exist.

“We see so many mental health clinicians leaving mental health services, because the system is not getting better, it’s getting worse, and there’s no vision there for how we can fix this.

He added: “I’m just surprised that there isn’t more of a political outcry around this. A lot of the parents that I speak to, they’re just trying to focus on getting help for their their son or their daughter, and they don’t have the energy then afterwards to kind of advocate.”

He said said a plan needs to be developed to address the issues.

“We’re tinkering with the system, rather than transforming it… The strategy, Sharing the Vision. It is a very forward thinking progressive strategy. But really we need to see much more urgent and kind of overarching action.”

He believes the creation of a national director role for mental health within the HSE would be a positive development.

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