Monday 16 September 2019

110 children face year-long wait to see psychologist

Child mental health services now the 'crisis of our generation'

Stock photo
Stock photo
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Shocking new figures show 110 children under the age of four are waiting more than a year for an appointment with a psychologist.

Another 87 children of the same age are waiting between 39 weeks and a year.

An additional 667 children are waiting between 12 and 39 weeks for an appointment.

The new figures show the devastating waiting list faced by children and parents dealing with serious mental health issues.

The official HSE data shows that in Dublin there are 39 children under four facing an agonising year-long wait to see a psychologist.

There are a further 10 children in Galway, nine in Kerry and seven in South Tipperary who are waiting more than a year.

The number of children aged between five and 17 waiting more than a year to see a psychologist totals 1,684.

Fianna Fail's mental health spokesman, James Brown, said the figures confirmed the dire state of mental health services for children.

"The waiting lists for child psychologist appointments is a burning injustice in this country," he said.

"How could you leave a child under four years of age waiting more than a year to see a psychologist? It's quite simply outrageous."

The Wexford TD said "serious long-term damage" would be done to these children if they were made to wait more than a year to see a specialist.

"They don't have the ability to recognise what's going on so the impact on them is atrocious," he added.

"The state of mental health services for children is the crisis of our generation but it's not being treated as crisis. The Government sees it as just another problem within the wider failings in our health service.

"Just look at suicide - if the same number of people were dying on our roads as are dying from suicide there would be national outrage."

Barnardo's head of advocacy, June Tinsley, said childhood was a "rapid time of development" and children needed urgent care if they were suffering from mental health problems brought on by bullying or other anxieties.

"Barnardo's often works with children experiencing anxiety because they are homeless or worried about their parents' behaviour or because they are feeling bullied or isolated. These children need timely support to help their mental health before conditions compound and escalate," she said.

"If a child presented with a broken arm, they would not be expected to wait up to a year or more for treatment so it is totally unacceptable that accessing mental health services is constantly characterised by lengthy delays. It only causes further damage to the child, their family and wider society."

Ms Tinsley also warned that there were worrying regional variations in the level of services available to children in different counties. She noted that children in Cork and Kerry were facing longer waiting times than those in other counties.

"A child's access to healthcare should not be determined by their location or their ability to pay," she added.

"The health, wellbeing and development of too many children is being compromised because of inefficiencies and resource gaps in our public health system."

Sunday Independent

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