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A Piece of My Mind

Almost 30% of children rate their mental health as 'not good' and need help to manage it

More than 4 in 10 children who availed of mental health services reported that it ‘did not deal with their problem or the cause of their difficulty’.

CLOSE TO 30% of teenagers rate their mental health as “not good” and that they needed help to manage it.

That’s according to a report titled “A Piece of My Mind”, which has been carried out by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO).

2,166 children aged between 12 and 17 were surveyed for the report.

While 28% of respondents rated their mental health as “not good”, a further 50% said they felt “sometimes low, stressed or anxious”.

Only 22% of respondents rated their mental health as “good”.

For those who “other” (non-binary, another gender or preferred not to say), only 6% rated their mental health as “good”, while 61% state that their mental health is “not good”.

Considerably more girls also rated their mental health as “not good” (31%) compared to boys (16%).

Meanwhile, more than six in 10 children who have accessed Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the past year reported that they found it “difficult” to access the service, with waiting times the biggest issue.

More than 4 in 10 children who availed of the services reported that it “did not deal with their problem or the cause of their difficulty”, while 27% reported that CAMHS staff were “dismissive”.

Of the 2,166 children surveyed, 6% were using CAMHS at the time, with 12% having accessed CAMHS at some other time.

Pressures about schoolwork or exams was also cited as the leading cause of mental health difficulties among those who said their mental health was “not good” or “sometimes low, stressed, or anxious”.

More than 7 in 10 (74%) of this cohort said school performance was the leading cause of mental health difficulty, followed by body image (65%), friendships of relationships (61%), social media pressure (48%), and bullying (47%).

While 33% of boys surveyed put body image in their top five mental health concerns, 71% of girls did the same, while this figure was 59% among those who identified as “other”.  

Half of children who identified as “other” also cited gender identity as a leading cause of mental health difficulty, compared to 2% of girls and 6% of boys.

Close to half of children (46%) relied on social media for information on their mental health.

When asked what improvements could be made to address mental health difficulties among young people, 45% called for more self-help skills to be taught in skill, a third cited short waiting times for mental health services, and 27% said there should be more mental health services in their local area.

Commenting on the findings, the Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said “children’s mental health and the state of our CAMHS are a major concern”.

He said it “simply isn’t good enough that so many are having to wait long periods of time to access services, and that when they do, they feel that the standard of those services falls short”.

“The children surveyed emphasised the need to have proper mental supports available to them in school,” said Muldoon.

“This is something the OCO has been calling for, and we welcome recent plans from the Department of Education for a pilot programme in primary schools.

“Overall, the picture painted by children in this report, particularly around mental health services, is very worrying.

“With almost 12,000 children on waiting lists for primary care psychology services and 4,270 of those waiting for more than a year, it is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.”

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