Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Youth mental health: statements.

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Youth mental health: statements. (26 Jan 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

...Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Frankie Feighan): I am pleased to address the House on this important subject and to outline the work being done in the area of public health and well-being and the national drug strategy to support our young people. Healthy Ireland: A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025, which was launched in March 2013, is a national framework action to improve the health and well-being of the country over the coming generation.. minister continues

…With regard to the national drugs strategy, a lot has been done to tackle the issue of drug use among our young people. The consequences of drug use can affect a young person's health and undermine his or her academic engagement and, sadly, may result in serious injury or death. We know that young people are most likely to experiment with drugs. It is therefore important that we collectively address these issues. It is important to consider some of the clinical advice and data that are available regarding the use of drugs, including cannabis. Last year, information fact sheets made available by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland showed that one in five adults who use cannabis are likely to have a dependence on it. However, the risk of dependence for our young people is even more pronounced, with one in three young people likely to become addicted if using cannabis weekly or more often. In addition, presentations to the child and adolescent addiction services indicate that cannabis is the main substance causing harm for those under the age of 18. This is a matter of serious concern.

Our national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, aims to promote prevention initiatives. It states that substance misuse prevention strategies need to be evidence-based and to target families, schools and communities in order to be an effective way of promoting health and well-being among the general population. The first strategic priority following the recently completed mid-term review of our national drugs strategy is focused on the protection of children and young people from the dangers posed by drug use. It is of utmost importance that we do everything in our power to protect young people by increasing their resilience, strengthening their life skills and promoting healthy life choices. The issue of harms caused to children by drug use is a priority for me. The newly identified strategic priority aligns with Article 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets out:

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures [...] to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances [...] and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances.

A multifaceted approach involving online resources, in-school interventions and targeted awareness campaigns can provide the necessary education to minimise the risk of substance misuse among young people. I recently approved the launch of the prevention and education strategic initiative and funding programme, which will increase the focused delivery of evidence-based prevention programmes among the school-aged population. There will be a number of funding streams within the programme through which we will focus on school-based interventions such as Know the Score, Ireland's first national evidence-based resource on alcohol and drugs for senior cycle students. The overall aim of the resource is to enable young people to make conscious and informed decisions about alcohol and drugs. The programme for Government commits to building on recent initiatives at junior and senior cycle and to supporting secondary schools in introducing drugs and alcohol awareness programmes such as Know the Score, with particular regard to the hazards of casual drugs use. Not only do we have national policy guidance in this area, but the EU drugs strategy also includes prevention and education for our younger people in its strategic priorities. It also recognises that families play a significant role in drug prevention and helping to keep young people safe from the misuse of drugs and alcohol. Recognising this, the HSE has created a guide for parents, which is available at drugs.ie, that helps parents to talk to their children about the risks associated with drug use in a proactive way.

Education and awareness programmes that are delivered alongside other measures and that build life skills and confidence are far more likely to be effective in encouraging protective and healthy behaviour than stand-alone measures. I am fully committed to supporting our young people and increasing the level of education on drugs and the dangers of drug use in Ireland....

[Click here for the full debate on the Oireachtas website]

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