Children’s mental health: Elementary school students ‘need in-school counseling services’, INTO conference said


Primary school teachers are calling for an in-school counseling service for their students, as they have expressed concern about the rising incidence of mental health problems.

The growing prevalence of social media use among young children and issues such as cyberbullying are contributing to the problem, the Irish National Teachers’ Organization (INTO) conference heard.

Professional on-the-spot counseling is one of a number of actions INTO is now pursuing as concerns grow about the growing number of young children with mental health problems.

A 2013 study found that one in three young people in Ireland by the age of 13 was likely to have some type of mental disorder.

INTO board member Órlaith Ní Fhoghlú told the union’s annual conference that referrals to the Community Mental Health Services for Children and Young People (CAMHS) increased by over 40 percent from 12,800 in 2011 to 18,100 in 2019.

In Ireland, at any given time, there were over 2,000 children on the CAMHS waiting list, she added.

Fiona Garvey, from Cork City’s south-east branch, said the mental health issue for primary school children had become a “gash”. She pointed to issues such as online socializing and cyberbullying and some children’s “addiction” to social media.

She said the teachers are continuing to try their best, but “there are these kids that we’re failing at and, in most cases, they’re going to keep struggling. We have a duty to find support.

INTO President Joe McKeown said mental health problems among young people have been exacerbated by Covid.

“Covid-19 has had an immeasurable impact on the life of every child in the country, but it has particularly affected children receiving extra support,” he said.

“Schools need to receive appropriate professional support and services for children with mental health problems in a timely manner to meet their ongoing needs.”
Delegates condemned the long waiting lists for specialized child mental health services.

They said that experiencing mental illness and poor emotional well-being could have a significant adverse impact on a child’s development.

They also deplored the persistent lack of access for primary school children to community and school mental health services.

Children with an autism diagnosis face special challenges when trying to access appropriate mental health services, they said.

The union says there must now be more funding for child mental health services and improved access to appropriate support.

A detailed motion adopted by the conference called for age-appropriate support, including an increase in psychological services for schools and the reintroduction and expansion of the demonstration project to support school and early age therapies.

It also called for a national framework to inform the development of guidance
Services for primary school children and the introduction of on-site school counseling in schools based on international best practice. Children’s mental health: Elementary school students ‘need in-school counseling services’, INTO conference said

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