Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children

Child and Infant Mental Health: Discussion

9:30 am

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I will reflect Deputy Ó Caoláin's comments, as parenting is all there, even before a person has a baby. There are prenatal classes and one person in the organisation can really help, which is the district nurse. District nurses go to families after the birth of babies. I have spoken to district nurses and they tell me they can see the problems immediately. We need to get back to that. I am speaking from the experience of being a school principal in charge of 620 children from age four upwards. Correct me if I am wrong but there seems to be more children presenting with issues than there have been in the past. Is that because of the pressures of life? I do not know.

I had the experience of helping a young person admitted to a psychiatric service well known in Dublin. It was a residential service and every night I went to visit the young adult, different staff were working. I was the liaison person but I could not speak to the same person one night after another. There would be round-table family conferences and they would always involve different staff. I found it very difficult to sit and watch what I thought was a service that was not good enough. This occurred in the past and it was not during this Government's tenure.

I visited a school principal recently in my constituency in Dún Laoghaire to discuss cyberbullying in a girls' school. While attending the meeting, the principal told me it was not cyberbullying at all but self-harm. At the end of the contribution, the witness indicated that 147 girls in the 15-year-old to 19-year-old age group presented to hospital as a consequence of self-harm. I know the parents of some girls whose children seemed to be capable, with everything fine in the home, but they were affected by this. Will the witnesses tell us what is going on in society? Will they advise parents on the first port of call in such an instance? There is no point giving out and criticising as when parents want help, where can they go and what is the best advice? Perhaps sometimes it will not involve psychiatric services and a parent should be able to sit down and advise a child. Perhaps it might involve a sibling, aunt or uncle. What is the best approach? I am not so sure the best action is to run off and look for a psychologist or psychiatrist; sometimes, a solution rests within a family. Parents - like many of our parents - might sit down and talk children through their issues and problems.


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