Wednesday 20 February 2019

Worst ever mental health crisis here

TD says radical changes are needed in under-funded service

Calls for action at a protest outside Slaney House, the centre for Wexford’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
Calls for action at a protest outside Slaney House, the centre for Wexford’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
Deputy James Browne: ‘I am dealing with distraught parents every day’
Cllr Johnny Mythen: ‘we need immediate action from the Minister and An Taoiseach’

David Looby

Children and adolescents in County Wexford will have to continue to endure 34 month waiting lists as the Government refuses to place mental health on a par with physical health.

This is the view of Fianna Fáil spokesperson on mental health James Browne, who has supported outgoing consultant paediatric psychiatrist Dr Kevin Moore's call for radical action in the Dáil on the matter.

Deputy Browne said children and teenagers present to psychiatrists and psychologists for help due to a variety of reasons, adding that the county's child and adolescent mental health service is meant to be for children who have a mental illness, as distinct from a youth who is going through a crisis in his or her life.

'You can have a child whose parents have broken up. They might need a little counselling. You need someone to carry out an assessment as you can have people who are not talking about being suicidal but who could seriously do it.'

He said the 10 per cent of most acute cases should be seen by the team at Slaney House.

'The problem remains that there is a 34 month waiting list and the psychiatrist and his team is still not seeing urgent cases. What happens when someone suffers a bereavement and they need counselling but nothing is available for 34 months. They become more and more depressed and the issues escalate and then you have a child who has developed an actual psychiatric condition and I have seen that happen.'

Deputy Browne said children should never be placed in adult psychiatric wards. He said parents are left in an invidious position where they are trying to safeguard their son or daughter and cannot mind them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so they are left with no option but to bring them to Dublin or Waterford for treatment in an adult ward.

'There are 44 adult beds in Waterford, but that unit should only be for people who need acute attention but because there are no long stay beds available anywhere in the region they end up staying for two weeks or more. What there should be is a no wrong door policy.'

Deputy Browne said far too many inappropriate referrals were made to Dr Moore of autistic children.

'They should be going to the disabilities department and diagnoses should be made earlier. I am dealing with distraught parents every day and they are so frustrated that they are at their wits' end as they can't get access into the services or to information about their son or daughter either. I have seen their mental well-being deteriorate because they can't get the support they need for their child.'

He said a €55m extra allocation to the mental health service this October agreed under the Confidence & Supply Agreement will help, but nobody knows, or will say, exactly where will benefit from the funding.

When asked if the south east region and, particularly County Wexford, will benefit, Deputy Browne said: 'I would hope so. Getting the money is one thing but we don't know how it is being spent.'

Deputy Browne, who is a barrister at law, said he does not think a referendum - as suggested by Dr Moore in this newspaper last week - is the correct mechanism to force the Government to resource and fund mental health services throughout the country.

'I do think something radical is needed. I agree with the sentiment but we have a Government there and there is a minister and if they were doing their job we wouldn't need radical action.

'I have my mental health party bill 2018 which states that mental health should be treated on a par with physical health and the government won't agree to it. That doesn't mean having mental health funded cent for cent. I do think young people get the importance of mental health but I think there area lot of senior people in our mental health services that don't give it the same respect. I think there is still a stigma there unfortunately, and a lack of respect for it. We have shown in our cancer, stroke and cardiac care, (with the exception of Waterford), that we can provide excellent services when we want to. I give the example of the child being treated with a plaster paras for a broken arm. You don't stop half way through, you complete the procedure. '

Criticising the government's inaction in appointing a Digital Safety Commissioner, Deputy Browne said preventative and not reactive policies are needed if Ireland's mental health crisis is to be tackled.

'Children are being exposed to hardcore porn and extreme violence; all sorts and they are not being prepared at school by targeting building resilience for what is out there. This is why more and more children are presenting with severe anxiety.

'I know of one example of a young woman who was self harming because of what she was seeing on Instagram. I have a concern that we are spending €400m on anti depressants and €10m on counselling services.'

He said medication does have an important role to play, but so does the support network team and counsellor services. 'The balance is not right and we need to intervene a lot earlier,' Deputy Browne said.

Cllr Johnny Mythen said the past few weeks have been sad for families and children in the county who are suffering from mental illness, following the departure of Dr Kieran Moore.

'I wish him well in his new post. Wexford now has no clinical child psychiatrist at a time when we have the worst ever crisis with children's mental health.'

Cllr. Mythen was speaking after he and fellow Sinn Féin councillors attended protests at Slaney House in Wexford.

'Please God, Dr Moore's departure will serve as a wake-up call to a government who seemingly couldn't care less when it comes to the mental health of our children. I fully support Dr Moore's call for An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar to apologise that this so-called progressive, tolerant and liberal society in the year 2018 is still locking up children in adult psychiatric wards. I also agree that we really do need a Bill to make this inhumane practise illegal.'

Cllr Mythen said: 'We need to now move forward on an honest basis with the way statistics are being presented. Mental Health Minister Jim Daly claims that there is only one child waiting over 12 months on one particular psychiatric list. However, the painful reality is that there are 203 children and adolescents still waiting to even access Psychological services in County Wexford, as well as an indeterminate number - most likely hundreds - waiting to access Autism services.

'The psychological service needs an estimated 30 staff. We need immediate action from the Minister and An Taoiseach - not more talk and spin-doctoring with figures.'

Wexford People

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