19 September 2011

Minister Fitzgerald marks Suicide Awareness Week following recent Presidential Forum and Imminent Publication of Report on Forum

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has this week marked Suicide Awareness Week by restating her commitment on leading on youth mental health issues. Minister Fitzgerald made her comments following the successful ‘Working together for Positive Youth Mental Health – Forum’ convened by President McAleese. The report of this forum is expected shortly.

“I look forward to reading the report, given the exciting and hugely useful morning that was held in Aras An Uachtaráin recently,” said Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Minister Fitzgerald attended the Forum at the invitation of President McAlesse and will lead the follow-up on the outcomes of the report, due to be published in the coming weeks.

Addressing the Forum at Áras an Uachtaráin on June 22nd President McAleese stated:

“We pay a high price, as a society, for lives blighted by mental ill health. Good early intervention prevents mental health issues becoming ‘unwelcome companions’ for the rest of our lives.

“The skills we need to cope with life are acquired. Young people need ways to develop these skills. They also need to have the insight to know when to ask for help.”

The Forum heard from young people across Ireland, who were asked to share their view as part of a consultative initiative on positive mental health.

In response Minister Fitzgerald stated:

“I was energised by the young participants at President Mc Aleese’s Forum. Rather than seeing mental illness as stigma, these young people are leading the way in articulating a new vision of positive mental health and are ready and willing to provide a listening ear to their peers.

“There was a strong consensus at the forum in Áras an Uachtaráin, that early intervention in the lives of young people was vital if we are to prevent mental health issues from becoming ‘unwelcome companions’ for the rest of their lives.

“I intend to use my cabinet position as Minister for Children & Youth Affairs to respond and act on the outcome of the Forum report, which is being complied by Dr. Tony Bates and is due to be published very shortly.

“We need to look at the counselling supports available to young people, in particular in our schools and communities as this was a priority identified by the young participants at the Forum in Áras an Uachtaráin,” said Minister Fitzgerald.

Young participants at the forum asked that their stories to be taken on board by the Government and mental health services.

“Because young people turn to one another to seek support initially, many young people present thought there was a strong case for teaching and supporting young people to listen to or mentor each other,” said one participant.

“I look forward to working with all my ministerial colleagues, in particular Minister for State Kathleen Lynch, as we seek to improve child and adolescent mental health services, to take on board the views of young people in this regard and to deliver on the programme for government commitments on mental health,” concluded Minister Fitzgerald.