More than 30 organisations unite to launch Children's Mental Health Coalition

Published date: 
15 Dec 2009

The Irish Government is failing children with mental health difficulties. Urgent reform of the mental health system for children and young people under 18 years is desperately needed.

In response, the Children’s Rights Alliance and Amnesty International Ireland have brought together 38 NGOs to form the Children’s Mental Health Coalition. The newly formed Coalition has today launched a manifesto and website to demand action from the Government.

Jillian van Turnhout, Chair of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition and Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: “The delivery of child mental health services and supports must become a political priority.

“In a shocking violation of their human rights, nearly 250 children were treated in adult inpatient units in 2008 because there were no child or adolescent places. More than 3,000 children face unacceptably long waiting lists for mental health services, there is patchy service provision across the country, responses that fail to meet basic needs and a lack of focus on early intervention that could prevent future problems. This must change.”

“The vision of the Coalition is that Ireland should be one of the best places in the world to be a child, where every child’s right to mental health is realised. As guaranteed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, every child has a right to enjoy the highest possible standard of mental health. This means enjoying a sense of well-being, control over their lives and the ability to realise one’s potential.”

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said: “Not only does the Government have a legal and moral obligation to improve the lives of children in Ireland, it has the power to make this happen.

“We need to invest in children’s well-being  Failure to do so will cost more in the long run. There will also be a terrible human cost - too many in our communities have experienced the pain of mental health problems and suicide.

“The Coalition has proposed cost-effective workable solutions. It is imperative the Government acts urgently to address the problems.”

Over the next two years, the Coalition will lobby the Government for action in four key areas prioritised by Coalition members; the mental health services, the education system, the criminal justice system and the care system. The immediate implementation of the manifesto will truly make a difference to children.

Jillian van Turnhout added: “The Coalition calls on the Government, political parties, State agencies and all those working with children to use their budgetary, political and legislative powers to realise the right of each child to mental health. Our aim is to breathe life into the State’s mental health policy – A Vision for Change.”

Representatives from the 38 Coalition members will attend the press conference, along with young people and political representatives.

Note to editors
The Children’s Mental Health Coalition manifesto and website are being launched on Tuesday 15 December with a photo call at 10.15am outside the Dáil in Merrion Square. This will be followed by a press conference at the O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel at 10.30am where we will have speakers, including young people who have experienced mental health services.

The Coalition’s challenge to Government

We call on the Government to urgently take the necessary steps to ensure that:

  • Children are provided with child-appropriate mental health services and inappropriate placements in adult in-patient units are ended;
  • Schools are equipped to engage in mental health promotion and provide early supportive interventions;
  • Multidisciplinary forensic mental health services are provided and that children with mental health difficulties who come into contact with the law are, where appropriate, diverted into mental health services; and
  • Children in care who experience mental health difficulties are assessed and receive necessary follow up services and supports.

The Children’s Mental Health Coalition has 38 member organisations from a range of backgrounds and sectors including children’s rights, human rights, educational and mental health services.

The Coalition member organisations include Alcohol Action Ireland; Amnesty International Ireland; The Association for Children and Adolescent Mental Health, Ireland Branch; Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI); Barnardos; The Base, a Youth Health Programme; Blanchardstown Youth Service; Bodywhys; Children in Hospital Ireland; Children’s Rights Alliance; Dáil na nÓg; Educate Together; The Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of the College of Psychiatry of Ireland; Family Breakdown Support Services; Headstrong; The National Centre for Youth Mental Health; Home-Start Ireland; Inclusion Ireland; Inspire Ireland; Irish Association of Young People in Care (IAYPIC); Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU); Irish Mental Health Coalition (IMHC); The Irish National Council of ADD Support Groups (INCADDS); Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO); Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT); Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN); Irish Second-Level Students’ Union; Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC); Mater Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services; Mounttown Neighbourhood Youth and Family Project; National Association for Parent Support; National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD); One in Four; Pavee Point; Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA); The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI); St Patrick’s University Hospital; Society of St Vincent de Paul; and

Children's Mental Health Coalition