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 Header Item Mental Health Awareness (Continued)
 Header Item Adoption Issues

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 816 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] Many of the issues to which he referred could not be raised on a more appropriate day. He has identified many difficulties associated with growing up, particularly for young people on reaching their teenage years. While there is a large number of positive developments open to them in terms of the freedoms and technology that are available, there is a darker side too with regard to the risks and dangers posed to them, as identified by the Deputy.

  The key message to be conveyed is the need to foster a culture whereby all those enduring mental health difficulties, including young people, do not hesitate to seek and receive appropriate help. Physical and emotional development during adolescence can obviously bring its own stresses of many kinds. In order to nurture our children, and ensure they maximise their potential to develop into well-adjusted adults, we must respond properly to their social and emotional needs. The foundation for good mental health is obviously laid in the early years. Society as a whole benefits from investing in children and adolescents on many fronts. The Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, is acutely aware of the need to prioritise mental health services in this area, including an integrated and effective approach to educational aspects. The vulnerability of youth is demonstrated by the fact that this is when about 75% of mental illnesses first emerge. The community mental health model asserts the principle of placing vulnerable children, or families, at the centre of the care process. If we can identify issues as they emerge, research tells us that early, and often brief, intervention prevents longer-term pain and lost opportunities.

  The Government, in line with A Vision for Change, has prioritised mental health services through providing €70 million over the last two years for many new initiatives. This year the HSE will have funding of approximately €730 million for mental health, and a significant proportion of this is directed, in partnership with non-statutory agencies, towards young people. In addition to the services provided by the HSE child and adolescent mental health service, significant work is being done, for example, by organisations such as Jigsaw or through the See Change and Make a Ripple campaigns. A new action plan on bullying was launched on 29 January last by the Minister for Education and Skills and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to help prevent and tackle bullying at primary and second level.

  In addition, the National Office for Suicide Prevention in partnership with the Department of Education and Skills has developed national guidelines on mental health and suicide prevention for the post-primary school sector. I am conscious also that many reports and other sources have rightly highlighted the need to better tackle the issue raised by the Deputy. The Government will continue to take account fully of these in progressing mental health well-being for young people, in line with evolving service priorities and overall resources.

Deputy Eamonn Maloney: Information on Eamonn Maloney Zoom on Eamonn Maloney I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I am glad he referred to the issue of bullying which I omitted to mention. It is an ever-increasing difficulty among school-going children in particular which seems to have reached almost phenomenal rates. Anyone who engages with school teachers will confirm that. There seems to be a spate of it from one end of the country to the other. It is not an urban phenomenon, rather it is widespread. As some reports have indicated, there is a very strong link between the cowardly practice of bullying one's peers and suicide, an issue to which the Minister of State and I have alluded.

  A strong point was made by Dr. Rosaleen McElvaney, the author of the Children's Mental Health Coalition report, Someone to Care, a report to which the Minister may have referred. Dr. McElvaney acknowledged the considerable challenges in providing care for children in the mental health sphere. It is a difficult one. She said there is "a clear need for a shared understanding and common language". Dr. McElvaney also said:

For example, many young people are involved with the youth justice system due to mental health difficulties that are left unaddressed. We need a process that diverts them towards community services that address their needs. Earlier intervention and support will lead to better outcomes for all involved.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Deputy in his contribution made reference to a phase of "looking into the mirror" and about our having to confront things about our society that are both good and bad. There is no doubt that the huge difficulties and challenges our young people face with respect to their mental health is one part of the jigsaw in terms of ensuring we have a society that looks after people who need help while also recognising that essential public services must be funded and in place to deal with the type of difficulties to which the Deputy referred.

The Deputy made reference to A Vision for Change. As he may be aware, A Vision for Change identifies the need for 80 child and adolescent child and psychiatric inpatient beds for the most vulnerable, who need the care and the service they deserve, and we must ensure they can be provided for them in the right place. Currently, 39 such beds are available and there are plans in place to put additional beds and services in place. A further eight beds will be commissioned in Cork and a further five beds will reopen in Galway by the end of the year. A second phase in terms of a child and adolescent unit at St. Vincent's Hospital in Fairview will be put in place to increase capacity from 12 to 18 beds by the end of 2013. Putting in place those services will be an essential part of the broader set of services that must be available to deal with the issue the Deputy identified. It is apt that he should raise it today, World Mental Health Day. I offer our thoughts and sympathies to the family dealing with the terrible difficulty that prompted Deputy Maloney to raise this issue in the House.

Adoption Issues

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I address this issue in the context of many people who have approached me on it and which is obviously an increasingly difficult problem for a large number of people. It is the issue of stepfathers or stepmothers voluntarily adopting children but the real issue is where their partner, and in most cases it is the natural mother of the child, is forced to adopt the child also. I will give a simple example, with which the Minister of State will be familiar, of where a mother has a child, she parts with the natural father, she takes on another partner and the other partner volunteers to adopt that child. The child's natural father disappears off the scene but the mother, by law, also has to adopt the child.

The reason I believe that is wrong and should be remedied is because many mothers find this particularly offensive. It causes them an enormous amount of stress because they believe something has been taken away from them. It is difficult to explain often in strictly logical and legal terms and they have to come back and ask the State if they can now adopt their child when all that really is happening is that their new partner is volunteering and wanting to adopt the child. That is not just an emotional intrusion. The process whereby this is done is also an intrusion upon their lives.

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