Updated: 13/03/18 : 07:51:02
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Unprecedented National Interest in Sligo FASD Seminar

Today in Sligo visiting Canadian psychiatrist, Dr Caron Byrne, will be the key note speaker at a sold out seminar in the Clayton Hotel looking at the growing need for support to be provided for individuals impacted by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and their families. 

Over the past number of years, there has been both growing concern and progress in relation to FASD in Ireland.  In August 2017, a new study published in JAMA Paediatrics estimated 47.5 children with FASD are born in every 1,000 births in Ireland.  Only South Africa and Croatia have higher prevalence rates. 

After many years of confusing messages from health professionals, the medical advice is now clear; there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  In addition, the HSE has recently appointed a clinical lead on FASD and a national working group has been established. 

'Raise awareness'  

Speaking earlier today, Kieran Doherty, CEO of the national charity the Alcohol Forum, highlighted the continuing need to raise awareness about the condition.  “When the Alcohol Forum began working on FASD, more than five years ago, there was very little known in Ireland about the issue and there was a lot of confusion about alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  When we heard that Dr Caron Byrne who has worked and presented in this area in Canada for many years was visiting Ireland, we were delighted to invite her to speak at this event.”
FASD is a serious health and social problem, as well as an educational and legal issue that affects individuals, families and societies worldwide.   Individuals with FASD have a wide range of disabilities, many of which can be improved with recognition and appropriate interventions.  

There is growing concern across Ireland of the need to address prenatal alcohol exposure as a matter of priority.  A 2017 Lancet study found that, of the 50 countries for which data was available, Ireland was one of the five countries with the highest prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy.

Research indicates that up to 92% of people with a diagnosis on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum will receive a formal mental health diagnosis at some point in their lives.  This seminar will delve into the important interconnection between mental health and FASD; a subject that has to date received very little attention in Ireland. 

Rosaleen O’Grady from the North West Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force will open the event.  “We are delighted to be working with the Alcohol Forum on this event and the level of interest from across services has been huge.  Over 130 people have registered and we’ve had to move to a bigger room to accommodate the demand.  We believe that this highlights the concerns that are out there and the struggles that families are having”.  

The mental health issues associated with FASD have received very little attention in Ireland to date and this groundbreaking seminar will shed light on the subject; bringing new perspectives and understanding.  

Dr Caron Byrne, who is delighted with the level of interest there has been in Ireland around this event, highlighted the need for increasing the understanding of the complexities of the condition here in Ireland. "Individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure are highly likely to experience a range of mental and emotional challenges throughout their life. 

"They and those that support them can benefit from knowledge about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and mental health.  Seeking support and help early may improve quality of life and decrease adverse outcomes.  Assigning blame is never helpful, but understanding always is."