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Recession leads to surge in mental health issues in children

The number of children seeking treatment for mental health issues has risen by 30 per cent in the past two years.

File photo
File photo
Image: Astrid WestVang via Flickr/Creative Commons

The number of children in Ireland suffering from social dysfunction, withdrawal, depression and other mental health issues has risen because of the recession, a mental healthcare conference is to hear next month.

The number of people under the age of 18 coming forward for treatment at some frontline clinics has increased by as much as 30 per cent in the past two years.

The shocking figures will be examined at the upcoming National Mental Healthcare Conference, which begins in Dublin on 27 September and will focus solely on the issues of young people and children.

Conference chairman Dr Ian Gargan believes the recession has had a considerable impact on Irish households, increasing the stress levels in parental relationships and touching children in new ways.

“This has led to a big increase in the numbers of children being identified for therapy and treatment.”

Dr Gargan, who is also clinical director of the Imagine Health clinics, says: “In a recession, the stress experienced by children tends to increase significantly and we’re certainly now seeing a corresponding escalation in those experiencing stress and mental health issues and coming in to avail of services.”

Children are not treated the same as adults and there is a challenge to find the most effective ways to treat the mental health of young people.

“As we know, in the past Ireland has not been good to its children as evidenced by the Ryan Report and the recent publication of the report detailing the deaths of 196 children in care or known to the HSE between 2000 and 2010,” adds Dr Gargan.

“However the good news is that new and more effective treatments aimed specifically at children are being brought to the fore all the time, often developed and pioneered here in Ireland where many aspects of treatment are approaching world class. The challenge now is to make practitioners and parents aware of these new options.”

The conference will hear from a number of experts who will discuss how technology, such as computer games, can help in the treatment of children.

The Samaritans are available at 1850 60 90 90 or by email at jo@samaritans.org. Other contact numbers which may be helpful: Aware – 1890 303 302; Console – 1800 201 890; Pieta House – 01 601 0000.

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