2,500 young people waiting for mental health services

‘You can’t put someone on a waiting list when they’re in crisis,’ says TD

Róisín Shortall said it was essential that a GP can refer a young person on to psychological services and counselling services at an early stage rather than referring the person to a waiting list.

Róisín Shortall said it was essential that a GP can refer a young person on to psychological services and counselling services at an early stage rather than referring the person to a waiting list.

 

The Government is being urged to accelerate the recruitment of additional community child psychologists with figures showing 2,500 young people are waiting for access to mental health services.

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly said community child and adolescent mental health services were operating with staffing levels at 50 per cent of what was required with major shortages in psychologists and counsellors.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall, chairwoman of the all-party committee that produced the Sláintecare report on the future of health services, said almost 2,500 young people were on waiting lists for services.

The report called for the integration of mental health services into primary care services, and Ms Shortall said it was “completely inadequate and inappropriate” that anyone should be referred to A&E in a mental health crisis.

Their comments follow the inquest of Milly Tuomey (11), who died by suicide weeks after posting on Instagram that she was unhappy with her physical appearance and wanted to die.

Her parents Fiona and Tim Tuomey said in a statement after the inquest on Thursday that they were unhappy at the lack of clinical protocols for children in a mental health crisis.

“What struck me is that the family were crying out for help but just didn’t seem to be able to get it,” Ms O’Reilly said.

Seminars

The Dublin Fingal TD had held seminars last weekend in her constituency organised by Cybsersafe Ireland.

It was an issue an increasing numbers of parents were seeking advice about. “They want to help their kids but they don’t know how to. They don’t know what they’re doing online,” she said.

“There are bloggers out there who are photo-shopped and prepped for photo shoots and that’s the body image that we’re giving to our young women.”

She added: “When it comes to issues of mental health you simply can’t have the waiting lists. You can’t put someone on a waiting list when they’re in crisis.”

The HSE said it could not comment on individual cases but in a statement said all referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) were “assessed on their clinical presentation and need and referrals that are deemed urgent will be seen as a priority”.

A standard operating procedure is in place which also includes its referral response times for CAMHS.

Major recruitment efforts are under way by the HSE, which has reported significant difficulty in filling specialist posts.

“Child and adolescent mental health teams need to be fully staffed and available in the community to support the family and the young people. If you look in Balbriggan we have a new primary care centre but we’re not getting any additional staff,” Ms O’Reilly said.

Waiting three months

Ms Shortall highlighted recent figures showing 661 children are waiting up to three months for mental health services, 1,472 are waiting between three months and a year, and 317 are waiting more than 12 months.

She said that “when problems first arise when they may not be all that serious but when it should be possible to tackle the problem at an early stage the services generally aren’t there”.

When a crisis arrives, particularly for a child, “you need quick access to services and suggesting that somebody goes along to A&E is completely inadequate and inappropriate”.

There was too much emphasis on hospitals and at the expense of good quality community services.

“If people can get early access there’s a far greater chance that it will be possible to prevent problems getting more entrenched and more serious to the point where it becomes a crisis,” Ms Shortall said.

Ms Shortall said it was essential that a GP can refer a young person on to psychological services and counselling services at an early stage rather than referring the person to a waiting list, “the only option in many cases at the moment”.

If you are affected by any of these issues, contact the Samaritans (116 123 or jo@samaritans.org) or the eating disorder association Bodywhys (1890 200 444 or alex@bodywhys.ie)