Initiatives encourage young people to stay connected

A number of initiatives are underway to encourage young people throughout the country to stay connected and mind their mental health. Monaghan Comhairle na nÓg has developed a campaign for young people to share their hobbies and self-care routines on social media during Covid-19.

“Because it’s such an uncertain time, initiatives such as this can really encourage people to take care of their mental health and stay connected,” said Taryn Clarke, 17, chairperson.

As part of its work to keep young people engaged online, encouraging social distancing, Monaghan Comhairle na nÓg also got involved in #LotsOfSocks in aid of World Down Syndrome Day. This is one of many social media initiatives that have taken place recently.

Negative stereotyping

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) has warned against negative stereotyping of young people in light of current restrictions and has been promoting positive stories of those making efforts to combat Covid-19, particularly in rural areas.

Its report ‘Youth Work in Rural Ireland’, published last November, pinpointed the lack of access to a broad range of specialised youth support services such as mental health and counselling services in rural areas.

Marie-Claire McAleer, head of research and policy at NYCI, said that the Covid-19 pandemic is difficult for all young people but particularly challenging for those with limited access to reliable broadband.

As NYCI research on youth work in rural Ireland highlighted, youth work services provide key services and supports for young people living in rural Ireland. Although our member organisations continue to operate online services during this period, for those living in remote or rural areas with poor broadband infrastructure, accessing online youth work services is much more challenging.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, continued support, guidance and flexibility is needed for those with mental illness while protective and restrictive measures are in place for the coronavirus, according to the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland.

With this in mind and to alleviate the additional pressure or stress that families of young people with mental illness now face, the college has embarked on developing a series of short videos outlining a number of key practical measures they can take.

The video series ‘Supporting Families of Young People with Mental Illness’ aims to provide some manageable coping strategies for parents and families of young people with mental illness and with neuro developmental conditions and co-morbid mental illness.

Eating disorders

Published last week, the second short video of the series focuses on eating disorders.

Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, Professor Fiona McNicholas, addresses achievable steps families can take to support their young person to be as medically well as possible at a time when physical visits to the services are restricted and usual routines have changed significantly.

It aims to help both families who are already linked with a mental health service, and those waiting for an appointment who believe the young person has an eating disorder.

Professor McNicholas provides advice on strategies to manage mealtimes, on tracking progress at home in preparing for an appointment with a mental health service and on caring for their own well-being during this time of isolation and restriction.

The full series is available on the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland website at: www.irishpsychiatry.ie; or YouTube.

The first previously published video concerns young people with ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – and features consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. Kieran Moore. A video supporting families of young people with autism and co-morbid mental illness with Professor Louise Gallagher will be released next.

The college welcomes further suggestions of similar videos that families of those with mental illness may find useful. Suggestions of further initiatives can be sent to: [email protected].

Covid-19 is stressful for all but a spokesperson for the college said it is acutely aware of the additional impact these times are having, and will continue to have, on those who live with mental illness and neuro developmental conditions as well as on their families, loved ones and carers.

It is vital that people with mental illnesses continue to engage with their mental health practitioners and services during this period, they said.

“Treatment and support are still imperative for many but may be delivered in a different way when necessary to comply with the Covid-19 practices that minimise the spread and damage of the virus.”