Over 500 children in Cork and Kerry have waited longer than a year to access mental health services
The two Munster counties have the longest waiting time, followed by north Dublin.
In recent years, mental health has become one of the most pressing issues for Ireland’s youth. Last April, RTÉ released a harrowing documentary which highlighted the strain on resources available to children and adolescents experiencing mental illness. Young and Troubled emphasised the tragic consequences a lack of funding in this area can have. In particular, it highlighted the fatal repercussions of long waiting lists to access professional services, as evidenced by the harrowing story of eleven-year-old, Milly Tuomey's heartbreaking suicide.
More recently, My Other Life: Ireland’s Youth and Their Mental Health focused on mental illness among young Irish people.
The Irish Times has now reported that 6,340 children were on a list for a primary care psychology appointment since the end of August, with a quarter of these waiting more than a year to access professional help.
The publication said that 527 children across Cork and Kerry, 297 children in north Dublin and significant numbers elsewhere in the country have been waiting longer than 12 months to see a psychologist.
James Browne, Fianna Fail mental health spokesman, obtained the figures from the HSE and said that:
"These lengthy waits are not only completely unacceptable from a medical point of view; they are causing immense stress and anxiety to the children and families trapped on the list."
Perhaps in light of increased expenditure on mental health services, as announced in the recent budget, these numbers might hopefully dwindle. Minister for Mental Health, Jim Daly, after the budget said that a number of different strategies to provide support to an increasing number of people experiencing mental illness had been identified:
“While the bulk of this €55m new development funding is aimed at further enhancing community mental health teams for adults and children, I am pleased to have secured funding that will enhance the spectrum of services, ranging from prevention and early intervention to promoting recovery in the most complex cases.
In particular, I have highlighted a number of new initiatives around the use of e-mental health and digital technologies, which includes a number of pilot programmes for tele-counselling; a dedicated mental health telephone number and crisis text service. New funding for community led youth mental health initiatives by sporting, community or other youth groups to promote and deliver positive mental health in a new way will also be rolled out.”
With these unacceptable figures emerging, hopefully the additional €55 million will help tackle this crisis and alleviate children and their families suffering.