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CEO of St Pat's says the recession created a generation of anxious children

Paul Gilligan said children now are very aware of the importance of doing well in their lives financially.

Image: dadblunders via Flickr

CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH services are seeing the impact the recession has had on children who were growing up during that period, the CEO of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services has said.

Speaking at the launch of his organisation’s new five-year strategy, Paul Gilligan said one in ten children will experience a mental health difficulty serious enough to require specialist care.

“Then when you add to that the type of factors that have occurred in Ireland over the last ten years, we know for example that more and more children are experiencing anxiety, because they’ve been through very difficult economic times as babies.

“They’ve learned the importance and integrated the importance of trying to achieve to make sure that they do well in their lives. That is not a criticism of family life or of parenting, that is the reality of living in Ireland in the year 2018.”

Part of the strategy for St Patrick’s over the next five years is an expansion of its child and adolescent mental health services. The organisation will also be investing in research into technology-based therapies and these are likely to tie into developments in mental health care for younger people.

Gilligan said there is a growing awareness around mental health issues and this has resulted in more people seeking help.

“Many will not require specialist care, the ones who do require specialist care need to get that care because otherwise they will end up experiencing major social difficulties in work, in school, family life,” he explained.

Many people will benefit from support and therapy provided in their own community, rather than through a specialist service, he said.

“This is not an Irish problem but there are special factors in Ireland in the last ten years that added the number of people experiencing mental health difficulties, there’s no doubt about that.”

He said the service will continue, as it has done for many years, to provide services for people who are suffering from addiction issues.

“The funding following addiction is difficult to secure and it’s always less than is required,” he said. It is significant, he said, that the State is now dealing with addiction primarily as a health problem, but it may take longer for societal stigma to dissipate.

“Yes, people have to take responsibility for their own recovery, but that’s the case in all mental health difficulties. We really do need to take a very serious look at the cost of treatment versus the cost if you don’t treat because it’s easy to take a punitive approach to the treatment of addictions without really looking at the social implications.

“The cost of treatment is far less than the impact of my difficulties on loss of employment, social issues etc,” he said.

“The economic argument is very simple, the difficulty is trying to remove the stigma and stigma comes in many different forms.

“It comes in terms of misunderstanding, in terms of discrimination but also in terms of believing that in some way these difficulties are someone’s fault, that it’s a social issue rather than a mental health issue and we need to address all of that through proper awareness-raising campaigns.”

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