Children and young people today live in a world that is vastly different to the one in which many of us grew up in.
The influence of social media and the internet, cyber bullying alongside school pressures, particularly regarding exams, have all contributed in no small part to rising levels of anxiety and stress amongst our children and young people. Even before the global pandemic arrived at our shores, the mental health of our young people was a concern, with estimates putting levels on a par with those seen in the adult population of Northern Ireland, roughly 1 in 5. Studies also show that half of adult mental disorders develop before the age of 18 so it is vitally important that we, in Government, ensure that the right services are in place to address and stem emerging mental health needs in young people, particularly with a focus on prevention and early intervention. But planning services based on estimations or population data from other jurisdictions is not ideal; Northern Ireland has its own unique demographic and history and this should inform how we provide services here.