Mental health crisis demands urgent response before more die
The kids are not OK.
The adults are not OK. Society is brushing its mental health problems under the rug and hoping they will disappear, but, according to the latest Central Statistics Office figures, suicide remains particularly high among men.
The outgoing medical consultant paediatric psychiatrist for Wexford and Waterford Dr Kieran Moore gave a damning response to the child and adolescent mental health service in an explosive interview with the Wexford People this week. Among the criticisms outlined was that mentally ill people among us; people suffering from serious illnesses including Schizophrenia, Anorexia Nervosa and Depression, are treated like aliens; placed in wards in remote locations.
Dr Moore, who has seen almost 5,000 children and adolescents during his 16 years in the region made an appeal through the newspaper for a referendum on mental health. He said the State has been complicit in treating children and adults with psychiatric illness as aliens and called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to apologise to the parents of children who have been had to attend adult psychiatric units for treatment,
The state of mental health services comes down to a lack of management and a referral system straight out of a Franz Kafka novel. Take, for example, the following figures as just a flavour of what is happening in counties across the country. Since 2002, 4,486 patients were referred to Dr Moore. 1,444, or nearly one third, were inappropriate referrals, which should have been sent to primary care services. Of the 2,357 patients who were seen by him, (each new assessment takes at least three hours including paperwork), 327 had a primary diagnosis of autism and should have been seen by the autism service.
800 (one third) should have been seen by the psychology service urgently, but weren't.
Describing the appointments system as a 'ferocious misuse of time and taxpayers' money,', Dr Moore went on to say the system is so bad that the parents of children with autism are advised to not to use HSE services, but to go private. It is not hard to imagine why the HSE is totally understaffed in its psychiatric service. The lack of compassion by the HSE and the lack of investment by successive governments borders on the criminal. The days of locking up people who were mentally unwell in old hospitals on the outskirts of towns have gone, but in their place there is a massive void, not unlike the noise parents are hearing when they are left waiting on the phone, time after time, trying to make an appointment for their sick child. The Irish mental health services are not providing a service, rather they are worsening the health of thousands of children, who need medical help and who have been deprived it. It is time to hold the Government parties to account for investing a fraction of the health budget to a life and death service.