Report calls for better accessibility for child mental health services

Nearly 90 children and adolescents in need of support admitted to adult wards in 2014

Nearly one third of children and adolescents in need of support from mental health services were admitted to adult wards last year, while waiting lists for youth mental health services increased by 8 per cent to 2,818 young people.

Speaking at the launch of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition report into the mental health needs of Irish children and adolescents, Dr Shari McDaid, director of Mental Health Reform, called for the State’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to be made more accessible to young people and their families.

“This report has found that there are a bewildering number of agencies involved in children’s mental health care, which can cause confusion at what is already a stressful time for young people and their families,” said Dr McDaid. “When we consider that one in three young people are likely to have experienced a mental disorder by the age of 13, it becomes clear just how urgent the need for good quality services and support is.”

Dr McDaid warned that in 2014, 89 children and adolescents suffering from mental health issues were cared for in adult wards, adding that 405 young people were on a waiting list for services for over the year.


The recommendations laid out by the coalition highlight the importance of “meaningful participatory” mental health structures where young people have a voice in decisions that affect their lives.

The report calls for “accessible, developmentally appropriate and specialist inpatient services” for children or young people with acute mental health difficulties, including those with a dual diagnosis of mental health with learning difficulties or substance misuse.

It recommends appropriate training for GPs and primary care professionals across the State to ensure early detection and appropriate intervention. The coalition also found that a national framework was needed to support children and adolescents who may need to transition from CAMHS to adult mental health services.

The coalition also called for an increase in staff numbers working with young people, an issue Anne O’Connor, director of Mental Health Services for the HSE, also highlighted.

“We have challenges - the one at the top of the list is recruitment,” said Ms O’Connor.

“We have money, we have the authority to go out and recruit staff, we just can’t get them. This is particularly a challenge in relation to consultants, nurses and psychologists.”

Dr Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children, voiced concern at the number of "vulnerable children" who were receiving care in adult psychiatric wards.

“These are wards where violence, tension and threats are not uncommon and I would suggest that such an environment is an upsetting place for an adult,” said Dr Muldoon.

“Therefore one can only imagine how it must leave a child or adolescent feeling when they are already struggling with negative feelings about themselves.”

“The way our children and young people feel within an adult psychiatric unit will stay with them forever,” he said.

The Children’s Mental Health Coalition report would act as a vital aid in erasing the “prevalent gaps” that exist within the State’s child mental health services.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast