70% of mental health professionals receive no training on problem alcohol use in the home despite serious psychological impacts 

AAI produces toolkit to help raise awareness launched by Dr Geoffrey Shannon 


The majority of mental health professionals in Ireland do not get any training on how to recognise or deal with the issue of parental problem alcohol use (PPAU) in the home, a new study from UCC and Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) has found. 

This is despite the fact that an estimated 600,000 people (200,000 children and 400,000 adults) live with the trauma of this adverse childhood experience  – and despite a comprehensive research base that demonstrates a link between mental health problems and PPAU. 

The study Understanding the views of professionals of the impact of parental problem alcohol use on clients – was based on a survey carried out with a broad range of mental health professionals nationwide. It is being launched during AAI’s national awareness week: ‘End the Silence’ – a series of events and activities from 17-21 October 2022 to raise awareness of the issues arising from growing up with alcohol harm in the home 

 It found that:  

  • 70% of mental health professionals reported that they had not received any PPAU specific training.  
  • The occupations which had the least amount of professionals reporting they were trained in PPAU were psychiatrists. 
  • 92% of participants reported that they would be supportive of all MH professionals being trained to a minimum degree to identify children who experience PPAU. 

The results also very clearly highlighted the need and want for data collection on this subject, with 97% of professionals stating they would support anonymous data collection of the number of clients impacted by PPAU through reporting to a central database such as the Health Research Board. 

In response to the need for information about the subject AAI has developed a digital toolkit to assist not just professionals, but people who are affected by this problem. 

CEO of AAI Sheila Gilheany said:  

“We have been highlighting the issue of PPAU in Ireland for many years and have known that many professionals don’t get trained on how to talk to people about it. However, it is still shocking to see the statistics laid bare in the research highlighted today. We have known for many years that there is a high prevalence of PPAU in people with mental health issues. Mental health professionals must understand this in order that people can get the correct assistance. 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. “ 

Speaking about the research, UCC’s Dr Sharon Lambert, School of Applied Psychology said:   

“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. 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. “ 

AAI’s patron Dr Geoffrey Shannon SC said: “This week of events organised by Alcohol Action is very important not only in raising awareness about problem alcohol use in the home, but in demonstrating what can be done about it. As someone who has long highlighted the impact of parental drinking on children, I am delighted to see such a useful practical resource as the PPAU toolkit developed. We have to provide support to children and families to break intergenerational patterns of trauma and adverse experiences.” 

Speaking about the AAI toolkit, which will be launched at an online event tomorrow (Tues, Oct 18), Dr Gilheany said: “Having realised that there was a dearth of information in one place for people affected by this problem – and also for professionals from GPs to social workers to psychiatrists, we have developed a digital toolkit that anyone can access and download with lots of helpful information and advice for children, adults and professionals. Co-produced with those with lived experience and professionals, we hope it will help to end the silence around this issue and normalise talking about what is a very common problem. “ 

The End the Silence week includes events highlighting good practice in education, social care and therapeutic support as well as a cultural event in the New Theatre hosted by Ray D’Arcy in conversation with noted author Christine Dwyer Hickey and others who have been impacted by alcohol use in the home. Data infographics are available for download on the campaign page. 

The AAI toolkit is available here. 

An infographic highlighting the UCC/AAI research is available here.  


AAI media language guide: 

Stigmatising language such as ‘user’, ‘addict’ and ‘alcoholic’ are outdated and damaging and should no longer be used to describe people who have problems with alcohol and other substances 

Not Just Words: The AAI media guide is available here.