BY EMMA CONNOLLY
THERE was a 43% increase in the number of young people from West Cork looking for help for mental health problems from the local HSE-run service in a single year.
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) unit in Dunmanway had 1,975 appointments in 2017. Last year, that increased to 2,823. According to the most recent figures, by May of this year, the unit had already seen 1,590 young people.
The service deals with children and teens who are struggling with things like bullying, self-esteem issues, sexuality issues, eating disorders, suicidal behaviour, anxiety and social isolation.
A new and growing problem that local services are seeing is the fall-out after images of teens, either partially clothed or naked, are shared online.
Greg Lawlor, principal social worker with West Cork Social Work department, said: ‘Sharing private images is a whole new phenomenon. Young people don’t realise that once those images are out there, they can’t get them back.’
Over-use of social media is cited as something that’s contributing to teens’ mental health struggles. However, experts agree that it’s rarely the only factor and it’s those whose self-esteem is already fragile who are most vulnerable. Greg stressed that parents need to be aware of what their children are accessing online and referred to a local 12-year-old who was accessing websites on self-harm.
Meanwhile, a survey of 100 young people in West Cork some years back found that 78 of them had a mental health issue. These were the findings of juvenile liaison officer Garda James O’Mahony, co-founder of Kinsale Youth Support Services (KYSS), who is adamant that mental health is now the single biggest issue facing our young people. ‘It’s being masked by abuse of drugs and alcohol, but it’s the underlying trend,’ he said.
Greg said accessibility and waiting times are challenges when it comes to delivering services. ‘There’s a greater awareness around mental health issues which has led to an increased demand for services . We’re more rightly in tune with issues, but services are struggling.’