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Dublin: 11°C Saturday 31 October 2020

Improved mental health supports needed for Irish families

Barnardos said that of action isn’t taken, lasting damage could be inflicted on children and parents.

Image: Mental health via Shutterstock

CHILDREN’S CHARITY BARNARDOS is to outline a number of recommendations around mental health and families at a conference today.

It is hosting ‘Patients, Parents, People: Towards integrated services for families experiencing mental health’ at Croke Park, which will be opened by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch.

In its policy paper, Bardnardos makes the following recommendations:

  •  Challenge mental health prejudice and discrimination: Parents must know they can access support without judgement on their parenting capacity
  • Adopt a family model approach: Promote policies and improve practice across adult and children’s systems that consider the needs of the whole family instead of seeing their service users in isolation.
  • Talk and listen to children: Children living with a parent experiencing mental health difficulties need to be informed and reassured in an age appropriate manner about what is happening to their parent and what to expect.
  • Expedite the roll out of comprehensive, fully staffed, multidisciplinary community based services.
  • Consult with parents affected by poor mental health: Identify parents’ preferred community based services that would make a positive difference to their lives and of their children.

Barnardos said that mental health is a serious issue for parents and their children and improved support must be available for families.

Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos, said:

Our people staff are seeing increasing instances of mental health difficulties among parents, and where it is unsupported or inadequately supported, children are affected. In our daily work, Barnardos sees numerous contributing factors, including the recession and associated cuts that leave families struggling with related anxiety and hopelessness.

He added: “We must take action before we inflict lasting damage on children and parents. The State needs a joined-up, family focused approach to better support families dealing with mental health difficulties.”

According to Finlay,there must also be the acknowledgement of the work needed to challenge mental health prejudice and discrimination “so no parent is shouldering any fear of judgement when they seek out support”.


Gina Delaney of the Carers Association, who is the former young carer of a mother who suffered with stress, said:

Every day my mother was dealing with survival for herself and her family. When she couldn’t cope she went into hospital. I don’t blame her, it’s not her fault that life was difficult and she couldn’t cope at times, and we knew she was trying to do her best for us.

Hazel Larkin, See Change Ambassador and parent, said that the biggest fear for any parent “is that we will be threatened with having our children taken away from us”.

We need practical solutions, and to be reassured we will be listened to and supported without prejudice or discrimination.

Mary Donaghy, Social Care Commission Lead, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland, said that the key problem is that support structures and services are disjointed, and that “too often medication is over-relied upon as a solution”.

Finlay noted that the Think Family initiative in Northern Ireland shows that simple steps to integrate services leads to better outcomes.

“We know what needs to be done and it doesn’t cost the earth. We have no excuse not to act immediately,” he said.

Read: Struggling with your mental health, but don’t know where to turn? This can help>

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