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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C

Seriously ill children need to deal with psychological fallout, says Yale study

Want to help seriously ill children? Text WAND to 50300 to donate €2.

MORE THAN 80 per cent of children who develop childhood cancer now survive – but new research has found that the emotional and psychological after-effects can be devastating to handle.

Sick children are often deprived of many of the elements of a normal childhood while they undergo long and difficult treatment for serious illnesses. Being taken out of school for long periods, away from their friends, and into hospital is an isolating and deeply affecting experience for young people – and indeed, their families.

However, recent research from doctors at Yale University indicates that therapeutic camps can contribute hugely to the emotional and psychological recovery of such children. Ireland only has one camp which looks after seriously ill children: Barretstown in Co Kildare.

Barretstown serves children and families affected by serious illnesses – primarily cancer and serious blood diseases. It runs on the strong belief that every child with a serious illness should enjoy their childhood. Active since 1994, the organisation has supported over 25,000 children since its foundation. Barretstown specialises in what is termed “therapeutic recreation” programmes in conjunction with “unobtrusive” medical supervision. Their aim is make the child and family forget their illness, enabling them to have fun and rebuild self-esteem.

Barretstown CEO Dee Ahearn pictured with 4 year old camper Olivia Killian from Trim and Cecelia Ahern

The Yale School of Medicine research from 2012 shows that such camps contribute hugely to emotional and psychological recovery of ill children. Results of a survey of 12 including Barretstown showed 83 per cent of parents saw an increase in their child’s confidence; 80 per cent reported an increase in self-esteem.

“While medical treatment very often produces great results, psychological and developmental issues remain to be dealt with. We work to give children their childhoods back, helping them to develop into well-adjusted adults, and we also work with parents and siblings to give them coping mechanisms and help them plan for the future,” says Dee Ahearn, CEO of Barretstown. Ahearn’s claim is backed up by Yale’s research, which asserts that such fun-based, therapeutic camps for children increase maturity, self-esteem and independence.

Everything, including accommodation, food, medical assistance and transport are provided at no cost to the family, meaning that donations are essential to the  continued existence of Barretstown. The organisation is currently seeking help in raising the €4.5 million necessary per year to provide these life changing programmes – and you can help.

You can take part in rebuilding the lives of thousands of children who are coping with serious illness. A €2 donation can be made by texting the word WAND to 50300.

Alternatively, donations can be made through the Barretstown website at:

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