Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Doherty calls for appointment of youth mental health tsar

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Tuesday) called on the Government to consider appointing a youth mental health tsar, to oversee the formation and implementation of mental health policies specifically targeted at young people. Deputy Doherty was speaking after visiting Jigsaw Meath, which provides free and confidential one-to-one support to young people aged 12-25.

“The network of Jigsaw projects, which is supported by Headstrong, is an extremely positive initiative aimed at providing community support for young people who are experiencing mental health problems. Information, advice and confidential support are provided free of charge, without the need for an appointment. As far as Jigsaw is concerned, no problem is too big or small, and every problem can be helped through talking about it.

“There are hundreds of initiatives like the Jigsaw project, offering help and support in every town across the country. Most are run on an entirely voluntary basis. Many receive Government funding and may be affiliated with national suicide prevention strategies, but many others operate on an individual basis.

“The Government is shortly due to appoint a national director of mental health services, who will oversee policy development in this area. While this appointment will be very welcome, I believe we should also consider appointing an expert in youth mental health services, so we can ensure a co-ordinated approach is being taken across the country. We need to make sure our young people are getting a coherent, consistent message on safeguarding their mental health.

“A youth mental health tsar could draw together the great work being done by groups like Jigsaw. I was hugely impressed by the support being provided by community workers at Jigsaw in Navan. There is a huge amount of goodwill and determination out there to tackle suicide and mental health issues; we have a responsibility to ensure this goodwill is harnessed and maximised.

“Appointing someone to champion youth mental health at a public, national level would help to ensure this issue gets the attention it deserves.”

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