Children Call for Mental Health to Top Ministers’ To Do Lists

Published date: 
28 Sep 2010


For immediate release    Wednesday 29 September 2010

Today the Government is returning from its summer break and the Children’s Mental Health Coalition is delivering a reminder to put children’s mental health at the top of their ‘to do’ list for the new Dáil term. As part of the Coalition’s campaign, messages on mental health will be delivered on giant pencil cases by students from St. Mac Dara’s Community College, Templeogue, and the Chair of the Coalition, Jillian van Turnhout.  These will be presented outside the main Dáil gates, Kildare Street, Dublin 2 today (29 September) at 10.30am to Ministers Barry Andrews TD, John Moloney TD, Mary Harney TD, Dermot Ahern TD and Mary Coughlan TD.

Students from schools around the country have added their voice to the more than 45 organisations already signed up to the Coalition, by writing personal messages to Government Ministers, with responsibility for health, justice, education and children, on the importance of mental health to children and young people.

The Coalition’s manifesto, published in December 2009, sets out solutions that will breathe life into the Government’s four-and-a-half year old mental health policy A Vision for Change and ultimately, improve the lives of children and young people in Ireland.

Jillian van Turnhout, Chair of the Coalition and Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: “September signals the start of the new school year and now the Ministers are returning for their new Dáil term, we are asking for renewed commitment to children’s mental health.

“Children’s mental health is an issue of huge importance and one that requires prioritisation by the Government. The most recent HSE performance report points to an alarming 14 per cent rise in the numbers of children on the waiting list for child and adolescent mental health services between December 2009 and June 2010. And during 2009, 200 children were admitted to adult inpatient units, a clear violation of their human rights. While the completion of the new child and adolescent units in Cork and Galway later this year is a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done. 

“The fact remains: children should never be admitted to adult wards. Children should not have to wait longer than six weeks if they need mental health support. It should be clear what supports are available in every area and they should include fully staffed and multi-disciplinary community mental health teams.

“Schools must be supportive environments for mental health promotion and early intervention. The Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) programme in schools should have a dedicated mental health strand and teachers should have adequate support to deliver it. Guidelines should be developed for teachers and students so that schools can respond to issues and support students.

“Children in our youth justice system must have access to adequate mental health support, and be diverted to mental health services where appropriate. It is also imperative that there is a nationally approved system for assessing young people within the care system, and that suitable follow-up supports are provided.”

Note to editors

Government Ministers that will be attendance or who have been invited are:
• Barry Andrews, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs
• John Moloney, TD, Minister for Disability and Mental Health
• Mary Harney, TD, Minister for Health and Children
• Dermot Ahern, TD, Minister for Justice and Law Reform
• Mary Coughlan TD, Minister for Education and Skills

The Coalition has more than 45 member organisations from a range of backgrounds and sectors, including children’s rights, human rights, educational and mental health services. It calls on Government 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 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; Bodywhys; Border Counties Childcare Network; CARI Foundation; Children in Hospital Ireland; Children’s Rights Alliance; The Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of the College of Psychiatry in Ireland; Dáil na nÓg; Educate Together; Family Breakdown Support Services; Foróige; Headstrong; The National Centre for Youth Mental Health; Home-Start Ireland; Inclusion Ireland; Inspire Ireland; Integrating Ireland; Irish Association of Young People in Care (IAYPIC); Irish Branch of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services;  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); Irish Refugee Council; Irish Secondary Students’ Union; Mater Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services; Miss Carr’s Children’s Services; Mothers Union; Mounttown Neighbourhood Youth and Family Project; National Association for Parent Support; National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD); National Parents’ Council (Primary and Post Primary); National Youth Council of Ireland; 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;; Youth Advocate Programmes Ireland.

For further information please contact:
Pippa Woolnough, Communications Officer (Mental Health), Amnesty International Ireland. T: 01 863 8300 M: 085 8353 757 E:

Children's Mental Health Coalition