THE publication this week of an interim report which highlighted significant deficits in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health System (CAMHS) follows on from several issues raised about the service in Co Kerry in recent years.
The report spoke of long waiting lists operating in a dysfunctional system coping with a massive shortage of staff.
It said that children had become ‘lost’ in the system, and also noted the lack of emergency services outside business hours.
One West Cork parent said they weren’t at all surprised by the report’s findings.
‘Anyone who has had any dealings with the service in recent years already knows how broken it is,’ the woman, who has a child who has experienced the service, told The Southern Star.
She didn’t wish to be named in order to keep her son’s identity private.
But she said she wanted to express the ‘sheer chaos’ within the system at times.
‘We were years on a waiting list, because I knew our son had suicidal ideation, and we were pleading to be heard. When he eventually did something quite drastic, and we ended up in A&E, we were fast-tracked into the system, but for us, that was almost too little, too late.’
She recalled the evening after his suicide attempt, spent sitting in a waiting room for eight hours in a Cork hospital, waiting for an assessment for her son, before they could go home, with her son in a very agitated state.
A few days after the assessment, her child was finally given appointments to see a psychologist.
‘What I had been begging for, for years, we finally had in days. But only after a very serious incident. Even then, the first psychologist he met left after a few months, just as they were making progress, and after he struck up a relationship with their replacement they, too, also left after a few more months.’
She said that the importance of consistency in mental healthcare is being missed by Camhs. ‘This constant turnover of staff is no use to a child trying to build a relationship. As far as I can see, all the problems with the service stem from Camhs’ inability to keep staff.’
She said that when the reviews of the Cork/Kerry region were ordered after the issues arose in Kerry Camhs, they put an added pressure on the system. ‘We had a number of appointments cancelled and we were told quietly by staff that it was because they were under pressure to assist in the review. I found this quite ironic because the very review which was conducted to examine delays and problems with the service was now, itself, contributing to more problems,’ she told The Southern Star. ‘And now they are talking about more reviews?’ she noted. ‘There is no doubt this system is broken, and if there are any more reviews conducted, they will just put more pressure on waiting lists. And the only victims of this are the children, like mine, who are crying out for help. It seems they now have to be at death’s door – literally – before anyone will take any notice of them.’
OPINION: THEY WON’T HELP UNTIL THEY SEE YOUR PAIN
By Maeve Kingston
GET your eight hours of sleep, exercise, eat healthily, and if you are stressed out or sad, chat to a friend or guardian. This is how we’ve been advised from an early age to look after our mental health.
But what if it’s not enough? What if we need more outside help for support? Private mental health professionals tend to be very expensive so many people will need the public mental health services.
In recent months people I know and love have been affected by the lack of mental health services in West Cork. I am ashamed to say I only realised how bad things were when it landed at my own door.
At the age of 14, I was privileged to be able to avail of a private service, when I most needed it.
So, what is happening in the public service?
In simple terms – if you are struggling mentally to the point of actually harming yourself or others, then, my friends, you will get the help you need.
If, however, you do not do anything too ‘drastic’ then you will find yourself on the waiting list, for an infinite amount of time, it seems. So, basically, until others can see how much pain you are in, there won’t be any action. Just hearing about your pain isn’t enough for our mental health system today. They have to see the physical signs.
They are like an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, waiting until you jump, then rushing to help you.
It is unforgivable to think that it is okay to leave 3,937 teenagers and even younger children (November figures) waiting for help and prioritising the ones who have ‘jumped’. In my situation, my pain was valid before the ‘cliff’, and it is valid now. So if you are sick, wait until you are sicker, to be assured of help. What kind of a ‘health’ system is this? I can only imagine how horrible it must be for a teenager facing the long waiting lists, knowing that those long months you must wait will make you dig even deeper into your mental struggles. Nobody realises how dangerous these wait times are anymore.
The reality? Children are dying because of lack of funding in the mental health sector and not being able to afford their own private therapist. I know of people my age who have resorted to googling ‘how to improve my mental state’.
We need to create a safe space for teenagers growing up in Ireland.