By Sean MacNioclais

Our education system has been hit hard by the recession and all of Ireland’s financial issues. There is no doubt that the educational system has been rocked my many budgetary cuts since the Fianna Fail/Green budget in 2008, literally days after the bailout of the banks was confirmed. Some savage cuts and increased fees have seen some young people drop out of the education system, many Special Needs Assistants lose their jobs, teachers have wages cut, by more than half in some cases, and resource hours for children in need of extra supports cut.

I recall being in the first two years of second level school, and while our school building was being built we attended school in prefab buildings. There were holes in the walls, the ceilings, the floors but the one thing at we always look back with laughter  is the fact that the prefabs also had bars on the windows. We used to joke and still do now that we were prisoners of our education system. However, joking aside there are some young people, those with disabilities either physical or mental who require a Special Needs Assistant that are prisoners of our education system today, for real.

Perfect. There’s your ammunition to have a go at those in authority within weeks if not days of a general election, to put  but no, instead come up with a statement that will certainly grab the public’s attention for all the wrong reasons. The statement made at the conference of all primary school principals was that more than 20% of all junior infant children, mere toddlers, are showing significant signs of depression. Xanax is a wonderful drug. It starts to act quickly. There is visible relief in 15-20 minutes. I found out about the drug on Xanax belongs to the group of tranquilizers and is a strictly prescription drug. The effect of this drug is mild, it eliminates anxiety, improves mood, relieves fears and panic attacks, but causes quite noticeable drowsiness, especially in the first days of use.

This statement is mad, bizarre and completely lacks any amount of credibility. How is a significant sign of depression defined? Is it the case that when I started school twenty years ago next September what was called a “temper tantrum” is now called “depression”? The fact that some children come in grabbing the hand of a parent or guardian and is refusing to let go, or is coming in “worried” for whatever reason does not make it depression. In the same way if a child is showing symptoms of a viral infection, with headaches, vomiting and aches and pains more than once that they must be tested for a brain tumour as all three symptoms could be described as “significant signs” of a brain tumour.

Saying that more than 20% or more than six in a classroom of thirty, four and five year olds have depression is just ludicrous and completely absurd. There will be one or two genuine cases in every five or ten groups but to say that there is more than six in every thirty is in a way unforgivable. The amount of work done by many people in order to help prevent depression and suicide is being brought into serious jeopardy by some completely farcical and over exaggerated claims such as these. How can we expect that potentially life-saving messages will be taken seriously while statements such as these are being reported in the media ?

In the report, it was also claimed that this issue wasn’t a problem 10-15 years ago and I think that proves a lot. 10-15 years ago the internet took so long to load up that people didn’t bother too often, people had mobile phones on which you could simply text, call or play snake. Now if someone has as much as a runny nose they check it up on certain websites and take the worst scenario as Gospel. Whereas 10-15 years ago people visited their GP and were told it was a “phase”, nobody needs to do so now as they have all become experts. They get a cough and think it’s a serious lung problem or indigestion and think it’s a heart attack, because this website or that website said so. If they want to make a “significant signs” claim they should consider that headaches, vomiting accompanied by pains and aches are all significant signs of brain tumours. If a child presented these symptoms I am sure that this illness would not be on their list let alone top of it.

There are people in our country today who have battled serious depression but as one top young GAA player put it, following his own battle two years ago, “If you’ve a broken leg, you go to the hospital and get that fixed, and if you’ve a broken mind, you get that fixed.”

Depression is a very serious illness which gets gradually worse over a period of time. It is not a clingy child, a crying child. Worry alone, certainly does not define depression

Thank you