Psycho-therapeutic support for schools

 

Sir, – I read with great interest Brian Mooney’s recent response (Health + Family, April 2nd) to a concerned parent’s query about support for their son’s reaction to the break-up of their marriage.

This resonated with us in the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP), as we have been lobbying for increased psycho-therapeutic support for secondary schoolchildren.

Our children are showing increasing levels of anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation across the country. We are hearing that this leaves professionals working with young people in a difficult position, and that these issues can be addressed with early therapeutic intervention.

Guidance counsellors provide invaluable support to children in second-level schools in many situations, as very well outlined by Brian Mooney in his response to the concerned parent. He also outlined, “If the level of distress is of a level beyond the competency, or time availability, of the guidance counsellor, they will be the first to suggest to their principal, a referral to an external agency”. It is at this point that problems can be encountered in gaining timely access to external support services.

Gaps have been identified in the onward referral process from schools, to external services, which can lead to delays in children accessing these services. These delays can lead to an exacerbation of their mental health distress. The IACP is advocating that additional measures need to be taken to address these shortfalls.

Last Wednesday, at a presentation in Leinster House, I outlined our proposal for the expansion of existing mental health supports in secondary schools, via the introduction of a State-funded, on-call support service for children, who need onward referral. This service would be activated as necessary by referrals from the schools to our IACP members, who are professionally qualified, accredited and vetted.

We strongly support children gaining access to more mental health supports in schools, including access to more guidance counsellors, and we are advocating that our IACP members step in to this identified gap in external services, and thereby ensure children in need of referral receive timely therapeutic interventions.

The IACP is proposing that action must be taken to gain consensus on the best way forward with this proposal. The obvious platform to enable this collaborative approach is via the Pathfinder Youth Mental Health Project which would enable all of the key parties to come together and discuss the best way forward. – Yours, etc,

LISA MOLLOY,

Chief Executive,

Irish Association

for Counselling

and Psychotherapy,

Marina House,

Clarence Street,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.