SEVENTY PERCENT of mental-health professionals have had no training on parental problem-alcohol use (PPAU), according to a new study from University College Cork (UCC) and Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI).
600,000 people in Ireland live with the adverse childhood experience of PPAU, and that research demonstrates a link between PPAU and mental-health problems.
PPAU can have a lifelong impact on children. Children can experience adversity even when their parent’s alcohol use doesn’t reach the threshold of dependency, and that the quantity of alcohol consumed by a parent is less important than the pattern of use, the motivation for use, and its consequences.
The collaborative study, between the School of Applied Psychology in UCC and AAI, surveyed 132 mental-health professionals in Ireland, 70% of whom reported that they had never received any training on PPAU.
AAI chief executive Sheila Gilheany said that there is a high prevalence of PPAU in people with mental-health issues, and the statistics around the lack of professional training on the topic are “shocking”.
“Mental-health professionals must understand this in order that people can get the correct assistance,” Ms Gilheany said.
“It also illustrates a need for a whole-of-government approach, with an identifiable senior government official who has responsibility to advise, develop, and plan appropriate services to address the multiple needs of the 600,000 children and adults affected,” she said.
The study, ‘Understanding the Views of Professionals of the Impact of Parental Problem Alcohol Use on Clients’, also found that 92% of participants would be supportive of all mental-health professionals being trained to a minimum degree to identify children who experience PPAU.
97% of professionals stated they would also support anonymous data collection of the number of clients impacted by PPAU, through reporting to a central database, such as the Health Research Board.
Dr Sharon Lambert, from UCC’s School of Applied Psychology, said that families who experience PPAU may have their rituals, roles, and routines disrupted and “this places some children at risk of developing a range of difficulties with psychological well-being and other challenges”.
“For many years, the research has been clear about the impact of PPAU on children,” Dr Lambert said. “
Yet still we do not make the links between the impact of these experiences and psychological distress in adolescence and adulthood. Based on this survey, professionals are asking for training in this area and this shows awareness about the topic is growing,” she said.
The results of the study are being launched as part of AAI’s national awareness week, End the Silence (October 17-21), which will highlight the issues arising from growing up with alcohol harm in the home.
As part of this week and in response to the survey results, AAI has developed a digital toolkit to assist professionals and people who are affected by PPAU.
Co-produced with people who have lived experience and with professionals, and downloadable for free on AAI’s website, the toolkit will “help to end the silence around this issue and normalise talking about what is a very common problem”, Dr Gilheany said.