When you have made a decision to get some extra support it can be hard to know where to start. The key thing is that you do start and once you’s started, keep going.
Assuming it’s not an immediate crisis situation or emergency you can make a GP appointment, or appointment with a private counsellor / psychotherapist / psychiatrist.
You can also access local or online support service relevant to the issue or problem (e.g. for general youth mental health problems there are regional Jigsaw services, for eating disorders there is Bodywhys).
GPs can provide practical advice and suggest solutions for most of the issues that affect our mental health. Some GPs refer people to local support groups dealing with specific issues or they may recommend changes in lifestyle or behaviour that can help to improve things.
That advice might be to do with harmful relationships, misuse of alcohol or drugs, poor eating habits or not getting exercise.
A GP might decide that some counselling would help and they can refer to counselling services. In fact, for medical card holders there is now a Counselling in Primary Care service for over 18 year olds. If they think it’s necessary, GPs can also suggest and prescribe medication.
On rare occasions, GPs can also refer young people to either the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) or to the Adult Mental Health service if they are 18 years-old or older.
Waiting times for CAMHS varies depending on where you live but around 70% of cases are seen within three months of a referral. In crisis situations, when there is a lot of distress a GP can arrange admission to an acute in-patient mental health service.
Compared with other parts of the health service, GPs are extremely responsive and very easy to access. You will almost certainly be able to get a GP appointment within two days of a phone call.
Usually it’s possible to get an appointment on the same day. GPs respond to a significant amount of mental health while providing a gateway to specialist services when they are needed.
Your GP can recommend a private counsellor, psychotherapist or psychiatrist or you can find a therapist on the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP). You can usually get an appointment fairly quickly as a private client.
During your first appointment the therapist will work with your son or daughter to find out what the issue or problem is. Once this has been identified, the therapist will begin the process of working out ways to resolve the problem or, as needs be, figuring out ways of accepting things that cannot easily be changed.
Depending on where you live, there are many fantastic voluntary and community organisations in Ireland providing mental health support. Some of the issues that voluntary services help with include eating disorders, sexual identity, drug and alcohol problems and suicidal ideation.
In Ireland, there are two services dedicated to supporting youth mental health among young people aged 12 to 25 years-old. Jigsaw services offer support to people in their regional centres and ReachOut.com offers online youth mental health support.
If you’re worried about your son or daughter and want to access support for them, just keep asking. Ask them what they need and what is working for them. Ask their school/college or workplace and ask their friends and siblings about what’s going on.
Start with your GP or click through to an online support. Just make sure you keep asking and don’t ignore any concerns and fears you have.
Don’t forget to mind your own mental health. If you can help it (maybe you can’t) try not to take it all on yourself. Share the challenge of getting help with a partner, a friend or a family member who you can trust.
People are good and usually want to help so don’t be slow about asking for help. Our sons and daughters are the most precious things in our lives so get all the help you can if you need to help yours through a difficult time.