Speech by Minister Moloney, T.D. at the launch of the Young People’s Mental Health Awareness Campaign www.letsomeoneknow.ie

I’d like to thank Geoff Day from the National Office for Suicide Prevention for the invitation to launch this awareness campaign which is aimed at young people and I am delighted to say informed by young people.

It is appropriate that we are here in Trinity Science Gallery – a venue synonymous with young people and education – two important themes for today.

I very much welcome this initiative which I hope will encourage young people to talk about their problems with someone they trust.

As Minister of State for Disability and Mental Health, one of my main priorities is to break the taboo which often surrounds mental health and encourage people with problems to talk – just as this campaign says “let someone know” if you are feeling down.

We need to create an environment where young people who may be experiencing mental health problems feel comfortable to seek help from family, friends or health professionals. In this regard, one of the most encouraging findings to emerge from the consultation process which informed the development of this campaign was that many of our teenagers are comfortable to talk about what helps or hurts their mental health. This gives me considerable hope that the tide is turning on the stigma often associated with mental illness.

I am delighted that so many young people took part in that consultation process organised by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. I am particularly grateful to the young people from Dail na nOg who voted for a mental health awareness campaign as one of their top priorities and lobbied successfully for this programme. Today is a real example of how the voice of young people has been listened to and acted upon.

This campaign is aimed at young people but I believe that there is a message for all of us in the advertisement we are about to see. We will be reminded to be more aware of the people around us and be mindful of our own mental health and that of others. This ad campaign will build on the success of the National Office’s ‘your mental health campaign’ which was first launched in 2007 and which made significant progress in raising awareness about mental heath.

It is, I believe, particularly important in these difficult financial times, that we are creative and innovative in how we support our young people. We don’t have a blank chequebook but we do have substantial resources already invested in our mental health service. €1m in once-off funding was allocated in 2009 to fund this campaign and I believe that we will reap the benefits in the coming years.

The latest published figures by the Central Statistics Office show a continued reduction in suicide numbers since 2003. Provisional figures for 2007 and 2008 show a reduction from 460 in 2007 to 424 in 2008. Although it is too early to say whether this trend is significant as data is provisional given population growth in that same period the rate of suicide per 100,000 of population is now the lowest since 1993, when suicide was decriminalised. However, I acknowledge that our rates of youth suicide and deliberate self-harm among young people are of particular concern.

Yes tackling our suicide and deliberate self-harm rates presents a significant challenge but I can assure you of this Government’s commitment to the development of person centred mental health services to promote positive mental health in our society. Today’s launch is a step in the right direction.

Young people have indicated to us how they see their own mental health; what helps and what hurts their views should encourage all of us to take actions which will reduce the stigma often associated with mental health problems.

Thank you