Almost half of the deaths of children and young people in State care in the last decade were due to suicide or drug overdoses, new figures show.
Forty-two young people died in the State care system between 2010 and 2019, with 18 dying by suicide or from a drug overdose, The Irish Times reports.
Twelve died by suicide while the remaining six deaths were attributed to drug overdoses.
The other deaths were from natural causes or accidents.
In 2014 alone, four young people in the care system died by suicide. Three died from drug overdoses in 2010.
Children and adolescents who are taken into care by Tusla, the child and family agency, are placed in foster homes or residential centres. There are more than 5,800 children in care, according to figures from Tusla.
Those who died include young people who were receiving aftercare support services after turning 18.
The National Review Panel (NRP) is responsible for examining deaths of children in care, along with those known to child-protection and welfare services.
Last year, the organisation said 206 children and young people known to child-protection services had died in the past decade, almost a quarter of them by suicide. The recorded deaths included the 42 in the care system.
One problem was children were not getting access to “the range of services they need” according to Dr Helen Buckley, chair of the NRP.
The review panel had been "critical" of problems in securing mental health supports for young people, she said.
She said many young people died by suicide during the period of "vulnerability" after they turned 18 and were moved on to aftercare supports.
The figures were compiled in response to a parliamentary query from Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín.
“I genuinely cannot get my head around the fact that 18 children have died by suicide or drug overdose in the care of the State,” Mr Tóibín said.
A Tusla spokeswoman said the “death of a child or young person is a tragedy and the agency extends its sympathy to anyone affected by the very sad events”.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can freephone the Samaritans 24 hours a day for confidential support at 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also freephone the national Bereavement Support Line run by the HSE and Irish Hospice Foundation at 1800 80 70 77 (Monday-Friday 10am-1pm), and the contact information for a range of mental health supports is available at mentalhealthireland.ie/get-support/.
In the case of an emergency, or if you or someone you know is at risk of suicide or self-harm, dial 999/112.