Change the Future - UNICEF Ireland

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Change the Future - UNICEF Ireland

CHANGING

THE FUTURE

Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland

REPORT 2:

MENTAL HEALTH

UNICEF Changing the Future

1.


Change the future

UNICEF is a global organisation, working in more than 190 countries to help build a world in which children’s rights are

respected, their needs are provided for, and they have a voice in shaping the world around them. We believe in changing the

world for children in Ireland too. UNICEF advocates for all young people to ensure that they have every opportunity to grow,

develop and contribute to our society. We are working to ensure that young people in Ireland are heard and that their rights

are realised.

This is why we believe the Change the Future: Experiencing Youth in Contemporary Ireland Report Series is vitally important –

because it is founded exclusively on the views of young people. Change the Future is about the voice of young people living

in Ireland, telling us their story, in their words.

This Research Project was coordinated by UNICEF Ireland.

The research, data and findings reported in Change the Future: Experiencing Youth in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health

was completed and compiled in December 2010. UNICEF would like to express our gratitude to our research partners MCCP,

and The Base Ballyfermot. Further details of the methodology and background to the Report are available through the

offices of UNICEF Ireland: www.unicef.ie

Any part of the Report may be freely reproduced using the following citation or reference: UNICEF Ireland, Change the

Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health January 2011. The views expressed in this Report

represent those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of UNICEF.

Photography: The photographs of young people used within this report for illustration are images posed by models and do

not depict actual situations, or reflect the themes of the Report.

UNICEF Ireland,

33 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1,

Republic of Ireland.

Tel: (+353) 01 878 3000

Fax: (+353) 01 878 6655

Web: www.unicef.ie

Email: info@unicef.ie

As the Changing the Future Report Series continues, this

second report focuses on adolescent experiences of

mental health, and the associated issues and pressures to

which young people are being exposed.

There are many disturbing and heart breaking findings

in this report. The pain that many young people are

experiencing was very evident not only in the statistics

but also in the comments made by the many brave, young

people who took part in this survey. Our findings show

that many young people experience serious mental health

issues at some stage. Yet very few of them receive any

professional help and as a result many experience ongoing

problems.

Young people have the capacity to help us reach the

solutions to these challenges. Through their compassion,

determination and kindness young people all across

Ireland continue to reach out to peers experiencing

difficulty every day. The young people who chose to take

part in this Research continue this tradition, by sharing

their stories with UNICEF, they are ensuring that we can

act to support young people who we know may come to

experience those same challenges in the future.

It is crucial that all of us in Ireland break down the

stigmas and taboos that surround adolescent mental

health. Confronting these issues is the first step towards

promoting and ensuring positive mental health for

all young people, and supporting and assisting those

young people who experience difficulties, to return to

equilibrium as quickly and conclusively as possible.

As a society we must all ask serious questions about our

ability to reach out to young people who are experiencing

these difficulties. We must question the quality of our

efforts to offer support to young people in crisis.

We must strive to ensure that every single young person

who needs our companionship, our understanding and

our assistance knows that we are here for them, and

knows the avenues through which they can draw down

that support, in a safe, protective, confidential and nonjudgemental

way.

The right to good health, both physical and mental is not

something that young people in Ireland should have to

aspire to. It is something to which they are entitled, and

which we are beholden to secure on their behalf.

We must do more to ensure that when it comes to positive

mental health, our children know that they have nothing to

hide, that there are sympathetic and supportive avenues

to which they can turn, that they no child has to face these

challenges alone.

Melanie Verwoerd

Executive Director, UNICEF Ireland.

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health. UNICEF Changing the Future 3.


Change the future

Why now?

In 2006, the Irish Government published its “Vision for

Change”, a Report of the expert group on Mental Health

Policy that had been convened to review Irish policy

and practice in Mental Health. The report sought to

“formulate a blueprint for a modern, comprehensive,

world-class service to meet the mental health challenges

facing our society.”

A Vision for Change addressed some of the most

fundamental challenges that face the implementation of

that system – challenges of understanding, of taboo, of

structure, of service delivery and challenges of access.

A Vision for Change also directly addressed the very

specific issues that children and young people face

with regards to mental health, recognising that these

issues have their own unique character. If Ireland is

to successfully implement a system that promotes and

defends young peoples right to the enjoyment of positive

mental health, then that system must respond to the

perspectives and needs identified by young people

themselves.

The child’s right to mental health is enshrined within the

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Article 24 of which states that:

“The State shall recognise the rights of a child

to the enjoyment of the highest attainable

standard of health and the facilities for the

treatment and rehabilitation of health, shall

strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his

or her access to such health care services.”

The obligation on the State to adequately equip children

and young people to meet the challenges they face in

terms of maintaining positive mental health was further

recognised within “Our Children – Their Lives” the

National Children’s Strategy 2000-2010, which states:

“Children will be supported to enjoy

the optimum physical, mental and

emotional well-being.”

It is widely recognised in Ireland, and internationally, that

there are certain obligations to children and young people

to which the State is beholden. Amongst these obligations

stands provision for positive mental health, and the

necessary supports and services to equip young people to

address mental ill-health when and where it occurs.

Every child has mental health needs. A child does not

need to have experienced specific trauma, illness, have

been socially excluded or physically bullied to have these

mental health needs. The system outlined in A Vision for

Change should not be conceived to identify and reach

out only to those children and young people in Ireland

who have been identified as experiencing specific mental

health problems, but to all children living in the State.

There is no better way to begin this important

conversation than to ask young people themselves.

It is crucial, if we are to successfully address the issues

that surround mental health, that young people themselves

assume a central role in that dialogue, collective

understanding, and effort. If we are to successfully

engage the issues that affect adolescent mental health,

promote the most positive experience of mental health

amongst young people, and respond appropriately and

successfully to their experience of mental ill-health, then

young people themselves must assume a central role in

the way in which we approach that effort.

Young people are already, and ever more increasingly

have to become, part of the solution. We have to open

the conversation up – to listen, to address stigmas, to be

inclusive, to learn and to gain from their unique insights.

We have to place young people at the centre.

How did we do it?

Change the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in

Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health is the second in a

series of four reports that will be published by UNICEF

Ireland in 2011. The purpose of this series is to present

the results of primary research that we carried out at

the end of 2010, and to combine the findings of those

four reports into a single holistic snapshot of adolescent

wellbeing in Ireland.

The first of these four Reports - Change the Future:

Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland:

Happiness, Bullying and the Recession, published in April

2011, has already outlined the methodology employed

in this research in some detail. For that reason, Change

the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary

Ireland: Mental Health will only restate the broadest

elements of that methodology:

➦➦The research includes respondents from all

four Provinces – Leinster, Munster, Ulster and

Connaught;

➦➦The results include male and female respondents;

➦➦The research featured the responses of young

people aged 16 to 20 years;

➦➦The survey used youth-friendly language;

➦➦All information gathered on the pages of the survey

website remains confidential;

➦➦No information gathered will be shared with any

other party;

➦➦No IP addresses or other technical information

was captured by our software or within the

research;

➦➦No contact information that could identify any

respondent for this survey - including emails,

phone numbers, pictures, videos, sound files or

names and addresses or other information was

gathered by this research;

➦➦The only demographic information gathered

was: age, sex and county of residence. This is

not considered sufficient to identify the location

or identity of any respondent and ensures that

respondents can give full and frank replies to

questions without any worry of being identified at a

later date by any individual, group or body;

➦➦Questions were both prompted and unprompted,

allowing for both qualitative and quantitative

results to emerge from the data collected;

➦➦The survey asked the participants to tell us

“in their own words” as often as possible;

➦➦Throughout this Report, we have presented those

responses exactly as they were told to us by the

young people themselves.

Further details of the conceptual framework and

methodology employed in this research project can be

gained from the series’ first report Change the Future:

Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland:

Happiness, Bullying and the Recession, or by contacting

the offices of UNICEF Ireland.

UNICEF Ireland will go on to publish the third report in the

Series – Change the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in

Contemporary Ireland: Drugs and Alcohol, later in 2011.

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health. UNICEF Changing the Future 5.


Mental Health

What did we f ind?

The report covers a range of very serious issues that

clearly affect a large proportion of young people living in

Ireland.

UNICEF Ireland believes that it is in the interest of all

Irish people, young and old, to be forthright in their

understanding and discussion of issues such as suicide,

depression, self-harm and eating disorders, and the

prevalence of these problems amongst young people

living in Ireland. We must engage the issues with

sensitivity, but also determination.

Mental Health Issues: How prevalent

are they among young Irish people?

There are certain issues that continue to emerge in

discussions centred on adolescent mental health,

and UNICEF Ireland wanted to give young people the

opportunity to report their own experiences of those

issues. Of course, the medical diagnosis of a condition

such as depression could be different to the selfreporting

of that same condition, however UNICEF

wanted to give young people the opportunity to tell us of

their experiences in the manner they saw fit.

The research findings also point to two very worrying

trends, those of feeling suicidal and self harming.

Which would you say you have felt or

suffered from in the past?

26%

20%

Furthermore, 13% of young Irish people report that they

have suffered from Anorexia or Bulimia in the past.

Which would you say you have felt or

suffered from in the past?

It is only by discussing these issues openly and without

prejudice that we can begin to address the stigmas and

taboos that continue to surround mental health in this

country.

Which would you say you have felt or

suffered from in the past?

0 10 20 30 40 50

13%

0 10 20 30 40 50

Only once we have engaged with these issues directly,

discussed them openly, and confronted them in a public

and unified manner, can we truly hope to assist the

great many young people who have reported their own

admirable efforts to address these great challenges.

50% Depression

29% Other

26% Feeling Suicidal

20% Self Harming

14% None

13% Anorexia / Bulimia

50% Depression

29% Other

26% Feeling Suicidal

20% Self Harming

14% None

13% Anorexia / Bulimia

In establishing this understanding we can offer not

just empathy, but our assistance in an informed and

comprehensive way.

0 10 20 30 40 50

50% Depression

29% Other

26% Feeling Suicidal

20% Self Harming

14% None

13% Anorexia / Bulimia

More than One Quarter of young Irish people

report that they have felt or suffered from

feeling suicidal in the past.

13% of young Irish people report that they

have felt or suffered from Anorexia / Bulimia

in the past.

“Depression for me now is a problem and is

having a physical impact on me”

“Physically sick, terrified... Suicidal.”

1 in 5 young Irish people report that they have

felt or suffered from self harming in the past.

Overall, in terms of young peoples’ reports of their own

experiences of the issues raised by the research, a clear

picture has emerged: 1 in 2 young Irish people report that

they have suffered from depression in the past, a further

1 in 4 report that they have felt suicidal, 1 in 5 report that

they have self harmed, and more than 1 in 10 report that

they have suffered from Anorexia or Bulimia.

50% of young Irish people report that they have

felt or suffered from depression in the past.

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health. UNICEF Changing the Future 7.


GenDer

The Signif icance of Gender

in Mental Health

The findings point to some clear distinctions in terms of

gender. It is evident that the extent to which girls and

boys experience these concerns is markedly different,

and it is essential that we acknowledge these disparities

if we are to discuss policies that can successfully

address them.

Which would you say you have felt or

suffered from in the past?

It is apparent that a greater proportion of girls, report

depression, self harm, anorexia/bulimia, and feeling

suicidal. There is a clear and noticeable gender disparity

which is reflected in the reporting of these four issues.

Considering each of these issues in turn, the gender

disparity becomes evident.

The difference in the experience of depression between

the two genders is illustrated below.

The difference in the experience of

depression between the two genders

49%

59%

Significantly more girls than boys report

self harming

0 10 20 30 40 50 60

Boys

Girls

16% 27%

16%

27%

Self Harming

11% more girls report to have suffered

from self harming than boys.

Significantly more girls report suffering

from Anorexia or Bulimia

0 10 20 30 40 50 60

Boys

2%

Girls

2% 23%

23%

Anorexia / Bulimia

23% of girls report that they have

experienced Anorexia or Bulimia

compared to just 2% of boys.

0 10 20 30 40 50 60

Boys

Girls

49% 59% Depression

More girls report feeling suicidal than boys

24%

32%

0 10 20 30 40 50 60

It is the case, therefore, that more girls than boys have

reported the experience of depression, feeling suicidal,

self harming and anorexia/bulimia. This disparity may

represent different prevalence rates between the boys

and girls, or it may represent different reporting rates

amongst the two genders.

0 10 20 30 40 50 60

Boys

Girls

49% 59% Depression

16% 27% Self Harming

2% 23% Anorexia / Bulimia

“Did not fit in good enough with friends or

to be with other people too.”

10% more girls report to have suffered

from depression than boys.

Boys

Girls

24% 32%

Feeling Suicidal

8% more girls report to have suffered

from self harming than boys.

In either case it is evidently important that policy

responses to these issues must be gender sensitive and

responsive to these different needs.

24% 32%

Feeling Suicidal

42% 28% Other

A greater proportion of girls report suffering

from Depression, Self harm, Anorexia / Bulimia

and feeling suicidal than boys.

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health. UNICEF Changing the Future 9.


Reporting

Different mental health issues can

occur together for individual young

people

Another significant pattern emerges in relation to the

way in which some young people reported the concurrent

experience of some of these mental health concerns.

The findings in this section therefore highlight the

multiple ways these different mental health problems can

overlap for individual young people.

Young people who have experienced

Depression

The research findings reveal that a greater proportion

of young people who have reported the experience of

depression, also report experiencing other mental health

issues.

Which would you say you have felt or

suffered from in the past?

Of the 50% who reported to have felt or

suffered from depression – 35% have also self

harmed, 19% have also suffered from Anorexia

or Bulimia and 46% have also felt suicidal.

Young people who have experienced

Self Harm

Similarly, the young people who reported self-harming

also reported a higher prevalence of depression,

Anorexia / Bulimia and/or feeling suicidal.

Which would you say you have felt or

suffered from in the past?

It is therefore the case, that of the 20% of young people

who report the experience of self harm, the great majority

also report that they have experienced depression and/

or have felt suicidal. This suggests the possible overlap

of three extremely traumatic and potentially dangerous

experiences amongst 1 in 5 young Irish people.

The great majority of young Irish people

who report to have experienced self harm

also report the experiences of depression,

and feeling suicidal.

Young People who have experienced

Anorexia / Bulimia

A large proportion of the young people who report that

they have experienced anorexia/bulimia also report that

they have experienced other mental health issues.

Which would you say you have felt or

suffered from in the past?

Of the 13% who report to have suffered from

Anorexia or Bulimia, 72% have also felt

depressed, 46% have also self harmed and

60% have also felt suicidal.

Young People who have felt

Suicidal

Finally, the research findings reveal that young people

who report that they felt suicidal also report that they

have experienced the other mental health concerns

raised by the research.

Which would you say you have felt or

suffered from in the past?

50% 89% Depression

20% 56% Self Harming

13% 31% Anorexia / Bulimia

0 20 40 60 80 100

% %

Total Base

50% 84% Depression

0 10 20 30 40 50

% %

Total Base

20% 35% Self Harming

13% 19% Anorexia / Bulimia

26% 46% Feeling Suicidal

Base = 50% that felt depressed.

13% 30% Anorexia / Bulimia

26% 71% Feeling Suicidal

Base = 20% that felt self harmed.

Of the 20% who reported to have self harmed,

84% have also felt depressed, 30% have also

experienced Anorexia / Bulimia and

71% have also felt suicidal.

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80

% %

Total Base

50% 72% Depression

20% 46% Self Harming

26% 60% Feeling Suicidal

Base = 13% that suffered Anorexia / Bulimia.

0 20 40 60 80 100

% %

Total Base

Base = 26% who have felt suicidal.

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health. UNICEF Changing the Future 11.


lInk To Bullying

Of the 26% who reported to have felt

suicidal, 89% have also felt depressed,

56% have also self harmed and 31% have

also experienced Anorexia / Bulimia.

In all four findings, the research presents clear overlaps

of the issues amongst the same individuals. In general

terms, it seems clear that the experience of one of these

mental health related experiences is often associated

with the experience of others.

A young persons’ experience of one of

the Mental Health concerns raised in the

research is often associated with their

experience of others.

The link to Bullying

UNICEF also looked at the relationship between

bullying, and the reporting of the four mental health

concerns raised by the research. In Change the Future:

Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland:

Happiness, Bullying and the Recession, UNICEF found that

55% of young people reported that they had been bullied.

If we are to take this proportion as the base and overlap

the reporting of depression, feeling suicidal or self-harm,

a clear link becomes evident.

Which would you say you have felt or

suffered from in the past?

It is therefore the case that the great majority of young

people who reported that they have been bullied, also

report the experience of other issues such depression,

self-harm, anorexia / bulimia or feeling suicidal.

While it is not clear that bullying is a causative factor

in these experiences, the prevalence of the overlap

between these issues beg very important questions about

the links between them.

Are the Problems ongoing?

The report has concentrated on the reporting by

young people of the experience of challenges such as

depression, self harm and feeling suicidal. The research

findings suggest that the experience of such issues is

prevalent. However, this is only part of the picture.

While it is important to understand the prevalence of

these experiences, we must also be cognisant of the fact

that, for a great many of the young people who took part in

this research, the problems are ongoing.

In terms of the gender distinction, once more it is

apparent that greater proportions of girls than boys report

that they continue to experience the problem.

1

“I’m afraid to admit…

because I fear that people

will judge me harshly

because of it.”

27%

73%

Similarly, there is a clear distinction in terms of the

ages of the young people who report that the problem

pervades, with a steady rise in reporting of the on-going

experience until the age of 19, then a noticeable reduction

at the age of 20.

“I was young so I felt distraught…”

59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 %

62% Depression

67% Self Harming

67% Feeling Suicidal

Base = 55% that reported being bullied.

While UNICEF had asked if the young people had

experienced the concerns in the past, we were told that

41% were still experiencing the issues at the time of the

research.

Are you still having this problem?

2

The greatest proportion

of young people who report

that the problems are ongoing

are 19 years old.

Age %

16 28

17 49

18 45

19 51

20 31

Yes: 41%

“I felt like I must have done something really

bad to deserve it – like it was all my fault.”

Close to two-thirds of the young people

who reported that they have been bullied,

reported the experiences of depression,

self harming or feeling suicidal.

No: 59%

0 10 20 30 40 50 60

Two in five young people are still

experiencing the issue.

1 Explanatory Note:

The Percentage reported for each gender represents the

proportion of the total sample who responded yes. ie 27% of

those were responded “Yes” to this question were males.

2 Explanatory Note:

The Percentage reported for each age represents the

proportion of the total sample size. ie 45% of all 18 year old

respondents reported that they were still having this problem.

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health. UNICEF Changing the Future 13.


Getting Help

Getting Help: Are young people

getting the support they need?

Young people are revealing the widespread experience

of distressing issues, which are difficult to address alone

without the necessary systems and supports.

Addressing challenges such as those discussed in this

Report can be demanding, and even more so to do alone.

Yet when we asked young people if they were receiving

any help to address their concerns, the overwhelming

majority reported that they were not.

The fact that 82% of young people who were still

experiencing the problem also reported that they were

not receiving any help, professional or otherwise, is of

significant concern.

There are a number of very important avenues (such

as peer or family support, the support of teachers and

guidance counsellors in schools, and the professional

assistance of care workers, doctors or mental health

therapists) towards which a young person in distress

should be able to turn for assistance, understanding

and support.

Getting Help :

Where do young people turn?

The 18% who reported that they were receiving help

revealed a variety of different sources of that assistance.

Who is helping you with this at present?

Other reported sources of help were family members,

doctors, therapists, teachers and care workers. While

the availability of peer support can provide a vital lifeline

to young people in distress, a major concern suggested

by these findings is that a comparatively small number of

young people report that they are seeking professional

assistance. 4

Who is helping you with this at present?

63%

Are you getting professional or other help?

Yes: 18%

No: 82%

0 50 100

“Isolated and unwanted.”

Only 18% of the young people who

reported that they were still experiencing

the problem reported that they were

getting help, of any kind.

82% of the young people reported that they

were not receiving any help from any source.

With such a low number of young people reporting that

they are receiving assistance an important question must

be asked – Is it the case that these avenues are not open

to the vast majority of young people who need them, or

that the young people themselves are choosing not to

use them?

There is also a significantly lower proportion of younger

people who report that they are getting help, which grows

as the respondents age increases. More than twice as

many 19 year olds reported that they were getting help

compared to 17 year olds. It is clear that the younger the

person is, the less likely it is that they are in receipt of any

assistance or help.

3

Only 15% of the young people

who reported that they were

still experiencing the problem

reported that they were getting

help, of any kind.

Age %

16 9

17 5

18 7

19 11

20 11

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

63% Friend

33% Family Member

19% Doctor

17% Therapist

7% Teacher

2% Care Worker

Base = 18% who report that they were

receiving some help.

The overwhelming majority (63%) of young people

reported that a friend was helping them at present.

33%

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

63% Friend

33% Family Member

Base = 18% who report that they were

receiving some help.

63% report that they are being helped by

a friend, 33% by a family member.

3 Explanatory Note:

The Percentage reported for each age represents the

proportion of the total sample size. ie 9% of all 16 year old

respondents reported that they were getting help.

4 Explanatory Note:

In this report we define professional assistance as a doctor,

therapist or care worker.

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health. UNICEF Changing the Future 15.


Getting Help

A further 7% report that they are receiving help from a

teacher, while only 2% report that they are being helped

by a Care Worker.

19% report that they are receiving help from a Doctor, and

a further 17% report that they are receiving help from a

therapist.

This suggests that there is a large gap between the

proportion of young people reporting mental health

concerns, and the proportion of those in receipt of

professional help in addressing those concerns.

Who is helping you with this at present?

7%

2%

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

7% Teacher

2% Care Worker

Base = 18% who report that they were

receiving some help.

Who is helping you with this at present?

19%

17%

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

19% Doctor

17% Therapist

Base = 18% who report that they were

receiving some help.

More than half of the respondents reported the

experience of issues such as those highlighted by this

Report, and 41% of those young people reported that the

problems were ongoing.

Of that 41%, only 38% are receiving help from a

professional source.

“I felt like I was the only one going through this.”

Less than two in five of the young people who

reported that the problem was ongoing are

currently receiving professional help.

7% Report that they are getting help from

a teacher, 2% reported getting help from

a Care Worker.

“I took anti-depressants in the past when

getting help with my mental health and I found

that they’ve done more damage than good.

Generally there is parity between the two genders’

sources of help, There is, however, a stark contrast in the

proportion of boys and girls who are receiving help from

a doctor.

19% report that they are being helped

by a doctor, 17% by a therapist.

Region Female % Male %

Friend 61 66

Family Member 34 32

Doctor 22 11

Therapist 17 16

Teacher 7 7

Care Worker 2 2

For every 1 male who is receiving help from

a doctor with these concerns, there are two

females in receipt of such assistance.

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health. UNICEF Changing the Future 17.


SumMary

Concluding Summary:

What are young people telling us

about Adolescent Mental Health?

There are several key findings that have emerged from

this research. UNICEF believes that it is imperative

that these findings are not just reported, but are also

understood, especially amongst those stakeholders

whose responsibility it is to ensure that positive

adolescent mental health is given the priority it deserves

within Ireland’s legislative and policy framework.

With one in every two young people reporting that they

have experienced depression, the scale and importance

of the task of promoting positive adolescent mental

health should not be underestimated. This assertion is

illustrated by the reporting of the other issues that have

been highlighted in this report: One in four of the young

people surveyed report that they have felt suicidal; one

in five that they have self-harmed; and a further 13%

reporting that they have felt or suffered from Anorexia or

Bulimia.

In fact only 14% of the young people who took part in this

research project reported that they have not suffered

from or felt any of the issues discussed in this report.

As Change the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in

Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health has demonstrated

in its findings, in many cases individual young people

experience the overlap of issues such as depression,

eating disorders, self harm or feeling suicidal.

This suggests that services which seek to promote

and defend the right to positive mental health must be

integrated and comprehensive in addressing the myriad

needs identified by the young person themselves.

To be truly effective, those services have to be accessible

to, and understood by, the people who may need them.

The views and opinions of young people themselves must

assume a central role in formulating policies that seek to

address Ireland’s youth mental health needs.

The fact that more than two in every five of the young

people who reported these problems, also report that

they are on-going should serve to remind all of the

relevant stakeholders and duty-bearers of the urgency

of the situation.

No young person should be left to address these issues

single-handedly, and there is an implicit responsibility

upon systems of child protection and care to engage

young people at the time that they are experiencing

difficulty.

Perhaps the most concerning finding of this report,

relates to the proportion of young people who are not

receiving any assistance. The overwhelming majority,

82% of those young people who responded that they were

still experiencing serious challenges, reported that they

were not receiving help from any source. This represents

a serious indictment of the way in which Ireland provides

avenues of care and support to young people who

experience these mental health issues.

Compounding this indictment is the finding that amongst

that small proportion of young people who are in receipt

of some kind of assistance, an even smaller proportion

report that they are in receipt of what could be termed

“professional” help – that is help from a doctor, therapist

or care worker. Less than two out of every five young

people are receiving help, report that help to be a

professional source.

There is an evident gap in the proportion of young people

who report that they have experienced the types of

mental health concerns that have been raised in this

report, and the proportion of those young people who

are in receipt of the appropriate types of assistance.

The existence of this gap poses fundamental questions

that Ireland must address if our adolescent mental health

policy is to meet the needs of young people.

Does the Irish mental health system have sufficient

capacity to address the needs of the large proportion

of our young people who experience challenges to their

mental health? If the capacity is there, why are young

people not availing of it? Is it a question of access?

Is it a question of young people’s lack of understanding of

the issues, the system of supports and the solutions?

Or is there another reason that young people choose

not to seek help? These are some of the most important

questions that we need to answer, if our adolescent

mental health policy is to be made fit for task.

No young person should ever feel that they need to

face these difficulties alone. Nor should they feel that

in admitting to these challenges they are in any way

diminished. The enjoyment of positive mental health

depends to a great extent on timely and appropriate

information, understanding and support.

The responsibility to ensure that no young person

believes that they are alone in their experience, that they

must shoulder that responsibility single-handedly or that

there is nothing that can be done to assist them through

difficult times is clear and we must assume it fully.

Also available:

➦ ➦ Change the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in

Contemporary Ireland: Happiness, Bullying and the

Recession, published in April 2011.

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health. UNICEF Changing the Future 19.


UNICEF Ireland,

33 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1,

Republic of Ireland.

Tel: (+353) 01 878 3000

Fax: (+353) 01 878 6655

Web: www.unicef.ie

Email: info@unicef.ie

design: mattwhitby.com

Changing the Future: Experiencing Adolescence in Contemporary Ireland: Mental Health.

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