Children’s Mental Health Coalition report highlights need for better coordination between agencies supporting children’s mental health

Getting access to mental health services and supports for children and young people in distress can be confusing, according to a report launched today (26/03/2015) by the Children’s Mental Health Coalition, a coalition that includes 53 organisations.

The report, Meeting the mental health support needs of children and adolescents, highlights gaps in mental health services and supports for children and young people, including staff shortages in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). It was launched by the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon and produced by Mental Health Reform, whose Director Dr Shari McDaid is the current Chair of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition.

Speaking at the launch Dr Shari McDaid said: “Unfortunately, despite additional resources that have been put into CAMHS services in the last few years, community teams are struggling to cope with increased demand. Government investment has resulted in an increase of 47 staff in community teams in 2014 alone. Since the launch of A Vision for Change in 2006, there has been a 71% increase in the number of child and adolescent mental health consultant posts. However, at the end of 2014 waiting lists had gone up by 8% and 2,818 children and young people were on waiting lists, with 405 of them waiting for more than a year. During 2014 89 young people (one third of all child and adolescent admissions) had been admitted to adult wards. The UN Committee on Children has called on Ireland to focus on early intervention for children and young people with mental health difficulties but this clearly cannot be done without continued investment in staffing within both primary care and specialist mental health services.”

“This report has also found that there are a bewildering number of agencies involved in children’s mental health care, which can cause confusion at what is already a stressful time for young people and their families. One of the recommendations of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition is that CAMHS should be made more accessible, including through the provision of clear information to young people and their families. This report aims to make practical recommendations to address gaps in services and supports and the Coalition now calls on the relevant Government departments and agencies to work together to ensure that children and young people can get the effective, coordinated mental health care that is their right”, Dr McDaid continued.

Launching the report, Dr Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children, said: “I head an Independent Human Rights Institution, with responsibility for monitoring and promoting human rights and see this report as a vital aid, in understanding the gaps within the services available for this particularly vulnerable group of children and young people.  I very much welcome the recommendation within this Report which seeks to ‘Enhance mental health promotion to increase protective factors and decrease risk factors for developing mental health difficulties’. This move to work “upstream” is probably our best way of reducing the pain and suffering of mental health difficulties in the highest number of people. If we can bring the conversation and the understanding to the widest possible audience, then we are likely to generate early intervention more often and thus reduce the negative impact of long term illness.”

Concluding, Dr Shari McDaid, said: “The Children’s Mental Health Coalition’s vision is that Ireland should be a place where every child’s right to mental health is realised. When we consider that one in three young people is likely to have experienced a mental disorder by the age of 13, it becomes clear just how urgent the need for good quality services and support is.”

Read the eight recommendations of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition here.

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