Bloody Teenagers

I live near a lovely village in East Cork called Killeagh. It’s a small village that’s blessed with a public woodland tucked in behind it.  The wood is full of walks, and a great playground for younger kids.

The playground was the work of a local committee who managed to source the land, the funding and the goodwill to get it built.  We’re quite proud of it.

And this year it was vandalised

Not too long after there was a meeting.  Unfortunately I didn’t make it.  However, I heard after that someone was arguing for a higher fence to be installed, so as to keep out the anti-social element.

It strikes me that this is a particularly curmudgeonly way to a) view the whole affair and b) fix the problem.  I kinda doubt a few extra feet of fence would keep out anybody determined.

I suspect this man was at the meeting
(From the brilliant pen of John Connolly – The Wolf in Winter)

The whole affair got me thinking about the mindset of the individual(s) concerned, and how they view teenagers. 

You can see the arguments develop, can’t you?

 And yes, teenagers do get involved in risky behaviours:

  • Teenagers can be moody (shocker)
  • Some teenagers drink too much
  • Some teenagers smoke
  • Some teenagers engage in self-destructive behaviours
  • Some teenagers engage in risky sexual behaviours
  • Some teenagers can engage in anti-social behaviour

But you know what?  Teenagers are amazing

  • Teenagers sleep out every year in Dublin to raise money and awareness for homelessness.
  • On the quiet, many teenagers help out at home in a big way.  They visit grandparents, they help care for others in the family.  They take on a role far greater than we usually know about.  And they do it without any great praise.
  • Teenagers help charities.  How many teenagers go through the mammoth fundraising task of going to India to help street children?  That’s incredible!
  • Teenagers help out in local clubs, committees and societies.  They do this not for any pay, but because they enjoy it, and see it as a good thing to do.

So, whenever I hear the begrudgers giving out about teenagers, I tend to think of the generosity of spirit and the goodness that I’ve seen in the many teenagers I’ve had the privilege to know.

Headlines are easy.  It’s much more challenging to look beyond the drama of that, read further into it, and come up with your own conclusion.

Bloody Hell. 
Teenagers Are Amazing

Through The Cracks

There has been a lot of talk in the media over the past few days about the crisis in the health system in Ireland.  Things are pretty grim.

According to the Irish Examiner, waiting lists have soared 968%.  In other words, if you are on a waiting list, you wait almost 10 times as long now to be seen.

And this is scary.  But it is not the full picture.

As a culture we are still hesitant to discuss mental health. As a result, we don’t get the full picture of the difficulties faced by so many people in crisis.

According to Aware, up to 10% of young people suffer from depression at any one time (my emphasis)

According to this document from the CSO, in 2005/2006 there were 335,134 students in second level education (see p.115)

If we put these numbers together, you have approximately 35,000 second level students suffering from depression at any given time.  I find this a very upsetting statistic.  Not just for the fact of the depression that the students are battling, but for the fact that we have so few resources to help the students in need.

Schools themselves have limited resources.  In an incredibly callous display of disregard for students, our former minister, Rurai Quinn removed guidance counsellors from schools.  (It remains to be seen whether our new minister, Jan O’Sullivan will reverse this decision)

I don’t want to give the impression that schools should be the place to fix these issues.  A school’s function is to educate students.  Schools are not places to treat issues around mental health, just as schools are not places to treat broken bones or other physical ailments.  Schools can run programmes to promote mental health, but if you’re sick – then you need a doctor.

However, just as schools can provide support for students with broken bones and other physical ailments, they are also places that can provide support for those in pain.

Or at least they could if they had the resources in place.  With all the staff cutbacks (especially that to guidance counsellors) schools are hard pressed to do all that is expected of them.


More is needed in supporting our teenagers in trouble.

We do have some excellent groups in Ireland, for example:

  • Aware is working to help those suffering from depression.
  • Pieta House works to help those who are suffering from suicidal thoughts or deliberate self harm
  • Console helps those suffering, either because they are thinking of suicide, or because someone close to them has died by suicide.

But our health system is not able to cope.  We don’t have enough psychiatric beds to help those in serious pain.  Our social workers are understaffed and overworked.  Counselling via the health service has a huge waiting list.

In short, our mental health services are not serving our teenagers effectively.

It’s not just the teenagers who are left fall through the cracks.

In this article the Irish Times highlights that 554 people in Ireland died from suicide in 2011.  We all know families who have been devastated by the loss of someone they love.

As a society we need to do a lot more to look out for those around us.  We need to do a lot more to look out for those who fall through the cracks.