One in four teens has felt suicidal

One in four teens has felt suicidal

By Liz Lockhart

At least one-quarter of Irish teenagers have felt suicidal at some point, while one in five have self-harmed, a new report from UNICEF Ireland has shown.

Mental health difficulties experienced by teenagers in Ireland were specifically looked at in the report.  ‘Changing the Future – Mental Health’ particularly considered depression, eating disorders and self-harming.

According to the report shows that:

  • 50% of young people have felt or suffered from depression in the past
  • 26% have reported feeling suicidal in the past
  • 20% have self-harmed in the past
  • 13% have suffered from the eating disorders, anorexia and/or bulimia, in the past

Only 18% of teenagers who had reported their problem to be on-going said they were receiving any help for it the report noted.  Just 14% of Irish teenagers specifically reported that they had not suffered from any of the above mentioned mental health difficulties in the past.

‘With one in every two young people reporting that they have experienced depression, the scale and importance of the task of promoting positive adolescent mental health should not be underestimated.’ commented Melanie Verwoerd, executive director of UNICEF Ireland.

It is imperative that these findings are ‘not just reported but are also understood’ she said.  Especially among stakeholders whose responsibility it is to ensure that positive adolescent mental health is given priority within Ireland’s legislative and policy framework.

The fact that 82% of young people who were still experiencing the problem also reported that they were not receiving any help, professional or otherwise, was of ‘significant concern’ she noted.

The report concludes that there is a major gap between the proportion of young people who report that they have experienced different types of mental health problems and the proportion of young people who are in receipt of the appropriate types of assistance.  UNICEF Ireland insisted  that the existence of this gap poses fundamental questions that Ireland must address if our adolescent mental health policy is to meet the needs of young people.

Ms Verwoerd said ‘No young person should be left to address these issues single-handedly and there is an implicit responsibility upon systems of child protection and care to engage young people at the time that they are experiencing difficulty.’ 

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