Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore said today that the findings of a UNICEF survey on the mental wellbeing of children and adolescents highlight the need for the Government to invest in further supports for young people as our schools reopen.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson on Children, said:

“The findings of the UNICEF survey provide a snapshot of how young people are coping with their emotional and mental health in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Worryingly, the report finds that more than a quarter of Irish children and adolescents do not have a high satisfaction with life. Mental and emotional wellbeing, body image issues, bullying and physical health were among the concerns raised by those surveyed.

“Ireland is 26th place in the survey of 38 OECD countries when it comes to the mental wellbeing of children, with the Netherlands, Cyprus, and Spain taking the top three spots.

“As our children return to school, the report is a stark reminder of just how much more work needs to be done to support and foster the wellbeing of children in Irish society. It is evident that policies need to reflect the emotional, mental and physical needs of young people as they navigate secondary school in their journey into adulthood.

“We need to see greater emotional and mental health supports in our schools; the promotion of recreational activities, including alternatives to sports; and the establishment of youth clubs and outreach centres to provide safe spaces for young people within their communities. This will also help provide an alternative to riskier behaviour such as experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

“The last recession had a major impact on our young people and we need to ensure that proper supports are in place to help them cope with the disruption and psychological effects of the Covid-19 crisis.

“We must reflect on this report and listen to UNICEF’s call for governments to address child poverty; the gap in mental health services for children and adolescents; and improve Covid-19 policies that support families with children.”

September 3, 2020

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