Children as young as eight years old in Derry are waiting up to a year for professional help for anxiety and depression, it’s been claimed.
During a youth media project with the Derry-based Headliners Group, one 11-year-old, whose identity cannot be disclosed, ppealed to all children to talk about their worries with someone they can trust until help becomes available.
She said: “If you are worried and anxious don’t keep it inside because that makes it worse. That’s what I did and it made it 10 times worse.”
Headliners reporter Colleen Maguire spoke to Susan* , a Derry parent of a child who suffered anxiety aged six. Susan advised parents and guardians who may have noticed their child has experienced a deterioration in their mental health to “talk openly about their worries and issues, being selective and taking into consideration the child’s age, of course.”
The local mother added: “I would also say, listen and be alert. Take an interest in their day to day school life and keep a close relationship with anyone with whom your child has contact with.
“Be discreet when telling the school about the anxiety and asking them to monitor it. Children don’t like to feel different and you don’t want to escalate the problem.”
Susan explained how her child was anxious aged around six or seven.
The problem started due to new found information about her daddy and where he worked abroad.
He had worked away for several years before but she was too young to understand the nature of his job.
“The symptoms were small at first.
“ It started off with her being clingy to me, a little more than normal, and then not wanting me to work, for fear that I would not come home. This escalated quite quickly to worrying about everyone in the family and talking about the future and counting days over and over and over again to reassure herself it was not long until her dad returned.
“The sleepless nights and the lack of appetite then escalated and this is when I realised I needed more help.”
She added: “My daughter still has issues with anxiety and her dad still works away but during her time at children’s therapy and loss counselling she learnt valuable skills on how to manage her thoughts and also found out about how other children have the same worries and this helped her to feel more comfortable, knowing that her thoughts were not abnormal and that she was allowed to feel this way.”
Taking an in-depth look at the issues, the local Headliners project interviewed a number of young people about their concerns.
All of the children spoken to agreed that parents, friends, teachers and youth workers were good people to talk to. One local teenager stressed: “Make sure it’s a responsible adult you can trust.”
Local mother, Susan, said support was vital for the whole family in order to be able to cope with the issues they were faced with.
Help came from the family team at Rossdowney House and from Susan’s immediate family. She added: “It was vital that we were all on the same page and took the steps to ensure our daughter felt secure and loved and cared for.”
She added that children now are under more pressure than ever before.
“I feel that children now have a lot of added pressure, as do parents, to be perfect. There are after school clubs, homework clubs, deadlines, and most families have both parents who work or one parent families who need the money and therefore spend very little quality time with their kids. It is hard to strike a balance and get it right but I think it is vital for our children to be a priority, and their mental health to be taken care of first and foremost.
“Reducing hours on the computer and encouraging social interaction is important. Also, talk openly about things that may be uncomfortable but are dangerous when left unsaid.”
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the children involved