Majority of children report difficulties accessing mental health services - survey

Report finds school pressures and body image among biggest mental health stressors

More than two in five children aged 12-17 who accessed Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) in the past year said it did not help with their mental health challenges, according to a report from the Ombudsman for Children.

A survey of more than 2,000 young people found that less than a quarter rated their mental health as good, with a higher proportion of girls reporting having struggles than boys.

About three-quarters of children who had mental health difficulties said pressure in school was their biggest issue, while two-thirds said they struggled with their body image. Close to half said social media pressure and bullying were their biggest difficulties.

The survey found that six in 10 children had difficulty accessing Camhs in the past year. And 42 per cent said that when they did access the services, they did not help with their mental health challenges.


The report, published on Friday, found 28 per cent of the children surveyed described their mental health as “not good”, while 50 per cent of respondents said they sometimes felt low, stressed or anxious.

The online survey was completed by 2,166 young people between last November and December.

Teenagers in the 16-17 age cohort reported having greater difficulties accessing Camhs services than those in the 12-13 bracket, it found.

The report said girls surveyed were more than twice as likely to be worried about their body image than boys. Girls were also more likely to be stressed about school pressures and exams.

Those who completed the survey said they were most likely to get information about mental health from social media.

Young people said their hobbies, as well as talking to family and friends, were the things that helped with their mental health.

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said it “simply isn’t good enough” that many children were forced to wait long periods to access State mental health services. The independent watchdog for children’s rights also criticised the fact that young people felt the standard of Camhs “falls short” when they were able to avail of the services.

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

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times