Saturday 24 March 2018

Young people face a year's wait for treatment

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Eilish O'Regan and Charlie Weston

Young people struggling with mental health problems face a wait of over a year to see a psychiatrist - or having to dip into their own private finances to fund the treatment.

The most recent figures for waiting lists in the child and adolescent mental health services provided by the HSE show that 1,251 were in a queue for more than three months to be seen.

There is a national shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists in the HSE and efforts to recruit in areas such as Carlow Kilkenny have been unsuccessful. Areas such as Cork and Kerry are particularly badly hit.

For adult mental health services a target for the HSE is to give people their first appointment, and have them seen within three months of accessing the service. A report carried out last year showed its target is to have 75pc of people seen in that time and its performance is variable.

Consumers have been warned that most health insurance plans do not cover counselling and well-being sessions.

People with cover have been advised to check with their insurer before going to a counsellor and assuming it will be paid for by their health insurance.

Although up to 100 days of in-patient psychiatric treatment is covered on plans, large numbers of policies exclude the likes of bereavement counselling.


Unless treatment or counselling is provided by someone registered with the Medical Council health insurance may not cover the cost, Dermot Goode of said. "Consumers should read the fine print and contact their health insurer beforehand."

He said mainstream psychiatric-related illnesses, such as depression or bipolar disorder where people need in-patient medical intervention, are covered. Psychiatric treatment of up to 100 days in a private facility will be covered as long as the plan covered private treatment, and not public-only hospitals.

Older plans, especially, do not offer expenses towards counselling sessions, he said.

"However, if you have a corporate plan that includes a free employee assistance programme, you may be able to access certain counselling and therapist services," he said.


Mr Goode said, typically, this will include a free 24-hour helpline to help with issues to do with stress, relationships, finance, or bullying. This service also includes free face-to-face sessions with a therapist or counsellor if deemed necessary.

VHI said that as well as up to 180 days in-patient psychiatric support, it provides money towards visits to clinical psychologists across a range of plans.

Laya said it had seen a 29pc increase in demand for counselling among adults and a 26pc rise from child members.

It said more than 60pc of its healthcare schemes provide benefits for counselling.

Irish Life Health said many of its plans give access to a 24-hour phone counselling service.

Up to six face-to-face counselling sessions are also available on some plans.

Barnardos runs a free Children's Bereavement Service (BCBS). The average waiting time varies, but can be from two to five months.

Irish Independent

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