Wednesday 21 March 2018

'Why is there no help for children when they ask for it?' – harrowing cases of boy (7) and girl (14) revealed

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Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A seven-year-old schoolboy and a teenager (14) are among those struggling to get help with serious mental health issues in one county, the Dáil has heard.

Deputy Mick Wallace read out a heart-breaking letter penned by a teenager to Health Minister Simon Harris which detailed her difficulties with the health service.

The girl, from Co Wexford, first presented to the HSE with suicidal thoughts in January 2016 and she was referred to a psychologist. But six months later was informed that she would be waiting up to two years for an appointment.

In January of this year she was struggling from serious mental health issues again and was sent by her doctor to an Accident and Emergency unit.

She was kept in overnight and ended up staying in hospital for six nights before she was seen by a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services staff member.

The girl has been struck by two personal tragedies involving suicide, Mr Wallace told the Dáil.

Her letter was read as follows:

Dear Minister Harris,

I am fourteen years old and from Wexford. I am writing to you to tell you my experience of seeking help for my mental health.

In January 2016 I asked for help as I was experiencing suicidal thoughts and struggling to come to terms with very tragic bereavements in family.

I was referred to psychology services in the HSE. They met with my Mam and then me in June 2016. They said they could help me, but I am on the waiting list. I was informed that I would be waiting between 1-2 years.

In December '16/ January '17, I had thoughts of suicide again and of being unable to cope. I was very confused and emotional.

On Wednesday the 18th of January ’17, my doctor put me into A&E to see a mental health group. I saw a normal doctor and he told me that I had to stay in one night so I would be seen quicker.

On the Thursday morning, I was told I was going to be seen but as the day went on, we heard no more. When the doctor was doing his rounds, my Mam asked the nurse what time were CAMHS coming at and the nurse said they aren’t coming anymore. After that I was made stay in hospital until Monday the 24th. I was scared and very anxious and did not understand why I had to stay in hospital. I just needed someone to talk to and help me deal with my low mood and emotions.

I was finally seen on Monday by CAMHS and got discharged with no appointment for help still. They said I needed a psychologist and they don’t have one on their team and they would have to contact the other service. I would like to know why there is no help for children when they ask for it? What can you do or what can be done to stop other children going through this?

Mr Wallace told the chamber that he had been approached by four families recently about deficiencies  in the services locally.

In one harrowing case a little boy (7) who had been waiting two years to see a child psychologist despite being refferred.

He is now unable to attend mainstream classes after stating, in front of other children, that he wishes to take his own life.

"The people of Wexford are tired of begging for services," Mr Wallace said.

Junior Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said services in Wexford had been suffering due to staffing issues but confirmed that a new psychologist was due to begin work there this week and a second psychologist post had been approved with recruitment due to begin soon.

"In recent years a number of factors have impacted on waiting times in psychology services. These include population growth in the Wexford area, significantly increased service demands and more complex demands and, as referred to earlier, staffing challenges," she said.

"As with many other areas throughout the country, there are staffing challenges within Wexford psychology services, including maternity leave, sick leave and reduced working hours, which are impacting on waiting times. Unfortunately, there is also an overall national shortage of psychologists at this time which has contributed to increasing waiting times both locally and nationally."

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the Samaritans Helpline on 116-123

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