Youth mental health services in spotlight after Kriégel, Dún Laoghaire cases

Community-based organisations offering services as State bodies struggle

A number of community-based groups offer a variety of resources and therapies for young people. Photograph: iStock

A number of community-based groups offer a variety of resources and therapies for young people. Photograph: iStock

 

The murder of Ana Kriégel by two 13-year-old boys and the attempted murder of a woman in Dún Laoghaire by a 15-year-old have put the spotlight on the extent of mental health supports available to children in Ireland.

The HSE’s main mental-health support system for youths is called Camhs, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. It provides assessments for young people and their families experiencing a broad range of mental health difficulties including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and psychosis.

The service is not directly accessible by children or concerned parents; patients must be referred there by a GP.

Camhs has come in for much criticism in recent years due to funding and staffing shortfalls. There are regular reports of children spending months or even years on waiting lists for an initial appointment.

In May of this year there were 7,106 children waiting for a primary care psychology appointment with the service. More than 1,800 of those had been on the list for over a year.

Last year, it was revealed nearly half the staff positions in Camhs were unfilled.

In light of this, a network of community-based youth mental-health services, some of which are funded or associated with Camhs, has sprung up around the country. They offer a wide variety of services from treating anxiety to addressing worrying sexual behaviour.

Youth Work Ireland

Youth Work Ireland, the largest youth organisation in Ireland is made up of 21 local branches which provide a range of services to young people. It engages with 116,000 young people every week, about 20 per cent of all youths in Ireland.

The youth projects provide a wide variety of mental health support services for children and teens including anxiety supports, counselling services and LGBT outreach.

This includes the Be Well Programme, a one-hour workshop which teaches young people to identify and address anxiety, the Here4U listening service which provides one-to-one support and the Friends Programme which offers cognitive behavioural therapy aimed at reducing anxiety and depression through building resilience.

Jigsaw

Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, offers nation-wide, community-based mental health supports for young people aged between 12 and 15. It offers counselling services at 13 locations around the country. It also provides confidential advice to teenagers, concerned parents and health professionals by phone and email.

Pieta House

Pieta House provides specialised treatment to young people and adults who self-harm or are at risk of suicide. Clients undergo an intensive one-to-one programme of counselling, which lasts between four and six weeks. The sessions are free of charge. Pieta House has locations in Ballyfermot, Finglas, Lucan, Tallaght, Galway, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary.

Spunout

An information portal rather than a treatment service, Spunout operates an online directory detailing dozens of organisations offering youth mental health supports around the country. It also publishes articles and advice on mental health issues and self-care.

Services for youths showing disturbing sexual behaviour

The number of sexual offences committed by young people is increasing every year, a trend many experts attribute to unfettered access to extreme pornography online. The consumption of violent pornography by the accused from a very young age was a feature in both the Kriégel and the Dún Laoghaire cases.

Despite this, treatment for young people displaying disturbing sexual behaviour is still underdeveloped in Ireland. However there are some services which address this specific issue.

The National Inter-Agency Prevention Programme (Niapp) was established by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, in 2016 as a successor to two Dublin-based programmes.

It offers treatment to children who sexually abuse or display other worrying sexual behaviour. It also offers support to their families. Niapp does not offer appointments directly to children. Clients must be referred there by Tusla.

The charity CARI does offer advice directly to parents of children under 13 years old displaying worrying sexual behaviour through its helpline. It also takes referrals from other services and provides therapy by trained psychotherapists.