Mental health issues common in Tallaght teens

A new report has found a high level of mental health problems among teenagers living in the Tallaght area of Dublin.

The report, which was commissioned by the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) and undertaken by researchers at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), focused on young people in Tallaght who were aged between 12 and 18.

It found that among the 11,000 young people living there, 33% suffer from anxiety, 31% suffer from depression and 20% suffer from stress.

Among those affected, 12% reported experiencing severe anxiety, 9% severe depression and 6% severe stress.

The report also revealed a major shortage of services. In fact, even after formal diagnosis, some young people were not able to access appropriate services. This was particularly the case if young people had a "dual diagnosis', i.e. more than one mental health problem.

"Dual diagnosis was an area of particular concern for both service providers and parents, with both expressing surprise and frustration that once there was a dual diagnosis, it often resulted in no service at all. One service provider referred to this as a ‘silo' mentality.

"Staff roles and services, along with criteria for treatment, need to be urgently addressed in practice rather than in theory, to decide who does what, when, and with whom, while maintaining flexibility," explained one of the report's authors, Dr Elizabeth McCarthy Quinn, of TCD.

Waiting lists are also a big issue and the report recommends that people should not be left waiting more than two weeks to be seen. However, it also recommends the development of outreach services, including a national network of 24/7 drop-in community mental health facilities, and the integration of counselling in schools.

"In the Tallaght region alone, mental health services should plan for 1,500-2,000 young people. This calculation should be replicated at a national level in order to determine the quantity of services required throughout the country," commented CDI chief executive, Marian Quinn.

She noted that parents, and even healthcare professionals, are often confused by what is available and when, emphasising the need for 24/7 services.

"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," Ms Quinn said.

The report highlighted a number of emerging issues that affect young people's mental health, including social media, homelessness, and being from an ethnic minority.

"Parents mentioned technology, social media, and the internet as if they were an ‘object' that could not be controlled, rather than boundaries having to be set by them. Service providers frequently referred to gaming as a significant issue leading to anxiety, lack of sleep, tiredness and school refusal," Dr McCarthy Quinn noted.

Meanwhile, the report also found that stigma remains a major problem, with many young people failing to seek assistance for fear of being stigmatised. Among parents, "stigma seemed to be driven by fear of a formal diagnosis, of medications, and of compromising their child's future prospects by having a diagnosis on their health records".

When it came to services, both parents and healthcare professionals said they preferred the idea of counselling involving the family unit, rather than a medical or individualised response.

The report, The InBetweeners: Identifying and Quantifying the unmet mental health needs of children and adolescents in Tallaght, can be viewed here.


[Posted: Mon 23/12/2019]

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