Sir, – We support those GP colleagues highlighting the urgent need for development of integrated care systems in general practice and primary care for our young people, and “the pointlessness of waiting lists of 18 months for any services they need”, including Camhs, to their mental health and wellbeing (“Mental illness and younger people – a deepening crisis”, Letters, February 1st).
There have been a number of well-documented issues with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs), and one of the key problems has been that the service is inundated with patients have nowhere else to go, given the widespread absence of critical primary care and the lack of sufficient psychological supports in schools, disability and other specialist services nationwide. Children who need a GP-based or primary care assessment and discussion with an appropriate medical professional who can determine whether they need to see a specialist are often denied that crucial service. Because of this, we are failing our young people at all stages of the developmental trajectory of their lives, which has a real and lasting effect.
This reality was epitomised by an account written by a mother regarding the concerns she has about her 17-year-old teenage son (”I barely recognise our 17-year-old son any more, either physically or emotionally”, Life, February 1st). Many parents reading this account may be in similar situation, particularly as we know that Covid-related lockdowns have exacerbated many young people’s mental health problems and illnesses. It is extremely difficult for parents to notice and monitor behavioural and emotional difficulties that are outside the norms of the adolescent phase of development as many factors can be at play, including substance misuse.
However, if we had all the requisite provision of primary and disability services, perhaps parents and guardians would not need to turn to the media as a desperate last resort. Of course, if a more serious condition is present, then the earlier it is identified and treated, the better for the young person and their future adulthood.
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This country has seen three major national mental health policies since 1984, but still we have yet to see these policies materialise. This is an indictment of our health system and cannot be tolerated.
The appropriate levels of support, care and intervention for children and adolescents are required urgently and must be staffed by the appropriately trained health professionals. We are beyond a crisis and need to see action now. – Yours, etc,
Dr MARY COSGRAVE,
Director of Communication & Public Education;
Dr MAEVE DOYLE,
Consultant Child and
Member of the Faculty
of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
College of Psychiatrists of Ireland