'Massive gaps' in Tallaght's youth mental health services

By Mary Dennehy

NEW research launched this week has identified ‘massive gaps’ in mental health services for Tallaght’s young population.

The aim of the research was to explore the ‘unmet mental health needs’ of adolescents aged between 12 and 18 years in the Tallaght region.

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Dr Elizabeth McCarthy Quinn (Principal Investigtor Research Fellow TCD), Maria Quinn (CEO CDI) and Jordanne Jones (Youth Mental Health Activist Tallaght)

Commissioned by the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) and carried out by Trinity College Dublin, the report was officially launched in the Russell Primary Care Centre in Tallaght Cross West on Wednesday.

According to the report, called The In-Betweeners, there are 11,007 young people between the age of 12 and 18 living across the Tallaght region.

The research highlights emerging issues affecting young people’s health including social media, the internet, homelessness and being from an ethnic minority.

Alongside examining the needs of young people in the Tallaght area, the research also included the experiences of parents and services providers.

According to one healthcare professional quoted in the report: “We have a year-long waiting list, and it is useless.

“Young people need something the day they need it.

“We need 24/7 services, we need services at weekend.”

Both parents and professionals also spoke of a preference for counselling services and approaches, which involve the family as a unit over a medical and individualised response.

The findings of the report show a ‘major shortage of services’, and that many young people even after formal diagnosis were still not necessarily able to access services.

This is especially the case when a young person has a ‘dual diagnosis’ with more than one difficulty.

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According to one of the report’s co-authors, Dr Elizabeth McCarthy Quinn: “Dual diagnosis was an area of particular concern for both service providers and parents, with both expressing surprise and frustration that once there was a dual diagnosis it often resulted in no service at all.

“Staff roles and services, along with criteria for treatment, need to be urgently addressed in practice rather than in theory, to decide who does what, when, and with whom, whilst maintaining flexibility.”

Marian Quinn, CEO of CDI, said that the research shows the “scale of the challenge faced to meet current service shortages”.

“In the Tallaght region alone mental health services should plan for 1,500 to 2,000 young people,” Ms Quinn said.

“This calculation can be replicated at a national level in order to determine the quantity of services throughout the country.”

Ms Quinn added that given the “repeated confusion” in accessing services – reported by health professionals and parents – that improved communications, consistency of referral processes and drop-in 24/7 services are needed.

Key recommendations of the report include the development of outreach services including a national network of 24/7 drop-in community mental health facilities.

Addressing waiting lists is also a priority, with the report recommending that young people should not be waiting more than two weeks to be seen.

The report also recommends that mental health supports should be more strongly integrated into the school system.

“Greater working with schools would assist in normalising and naming the emotions and feelings for all teenagers in reaching students who may be reluctant to seek assistance and for providing counselling,” Ms Quinn said.

Ms Quinn added that the report also shows the importance of prevention and early intervention services for children and families in the early years.

The report can be viewed at www.cdi.ie .

Support is available at - Samaritans 116123; Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or www.pieta.ie; Teenline 1800 833 634; and the HOPE suicide prevention drop-in centre in Tallaght Village on 087 1363082.

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