Speaking points for Minister Kathleen Lynch, TD at the First National Youth Mental Health Conference on Emerging Evidence on Youth Mental Health multi-disciplinary perspectives

I am delighted to be here this morning to speak at your First National Conference on Emerging Evidence on Youth Mental Health multi-disciplinary perspectives. Your programme for the day is indeed very impressive.

In recent years, we have certainly shifted our understanding of mental health significantly. I believe there is an increased awareness and understanding of mental health; and an event like this reflects and consolidates the desire among professionals and individuals to achieve more positive outcomes for our young people who maybe experiencing mental health challenges.

The health of our young people is vital to the creating and continuance of healthy societies. The transition from childhood to adulthood is a period during which young people lay down the foundations for their future life. Adolescence is the developmental stage during which individuals grapple with issues of independence and autonomy and when they begin to establish identities independent of their families.

Physical and emotional development during adolescence can bring great stress. The world can be a very complicated place and many of our young people dwell in silent suffering pretending all is well.

As a caring society, we must I believe be very careful to attend to the social and emotional needs of our youth in order to ensure that they reach their potential and develop into happy well adjusted adults. Our young population are the next generation and we must be careful to protect and support them as necessary.

Youth can be a very vulnerable time and it is a time when 75% of mental illness emerges. It is critical therefore that we provide both in our health services and communities, the kinds of support children and young people need to prevent a lifetime of needless pain and suffering. We must ensure early intervention for any young person experiencing mental health difficulties, because we know that early intervention leads to the best health outcomes and reduces the likelihood of long term disability.

I can assure all present that the Government is committed to youth mental health and to the development of the child and adolescent mental health service. Our model of healthcare delivery will be reformed so that more care is delivered in the community.

Access to modern mental health services in the community will be significantly improved, and a sum of €35m annually will be ringfenced from within the health budget, to develop community mental health teams and services, to ensure early access to more appropriate services for both adults and young people.

As Minister with responsibility for mental health I am very keen that we are as proactive as we possibly can in developing and promoting better services to support young people’s mental health.

I was delighted to attend yesterday at the announcement of €1 million funding from the HSE to Headstrong – The National Centre for Youth Mental Health – which allows Headstrong to replicate its already successful Jigsaw project in six new sites – in Donegal, Offaly, Clondalkin, Tallaght, Balbriggan and Dublin 15. Jigsaw sites are already up and running in Counties Galway, Roscommon, Kerry, Meath and Ballymun in Dublin This model creates safe spaces in communities where young people can access a wide range of mental health supports for free.

Here in Ireland we are running a National Stigma Reduction Campaign See Change which aims to effect change and positively transform how mental illness is perceived within Irish society. As part of See Change, I recently launched the Make a Ripple campaign. The campaign aims to build a dedicated online community of ambassadors, advocates, story tellers and volunteers who will give a message about mental health. The idea is to create a ripple effect that will allow more and more people to be reached with the message that we need to be open, honest and accepting about our own and other people’s mental health.

Of course our young people have grown up in an era of unprecedented prosperity and the wide availability of work and opportunities. As our economy adjusts it is important to acknowledge the strains many younger people and young adults may be experiencing for the first time in coping with a very difficult economic environment.

In these difficult times we need to build a shared resilience and be mindful of the need to protect our mental health. Our mental health is very precious, and it is important from an early age that we learn to value, protect and nurture it. By developing our individual strengths and inner resilience, we become more able to bounce back from the challenges and setbacks that life presents. Our problems will not automatically disappear, but our resilience often enables us to see beyond the sometimes overwhelming challenges that we face, handle future stressors better and enjoy life more.

The availability of up-to-date information is extremely important and, of course, we all have to ensure that the outcomes from research findings are used in our decision making process.

Finally, I understand that later on to-day you are launching an International Declaration on Youth Mental Health, a template for the reform and redesign of mental health services for young people aged 12-25 years in order to ensure young people get the support they need when and where they need it. I am sure that this Declaration will go along way to achieving this objective.

I wish you well with your deliberations today.