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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 8 July, 2020
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'My son wants to be dead. He is ten years of age'

An emotive letter from a concerned mother was read in the Dail today by Independent TD Mick Wallace.

My son wants to be dead. He is ten years of age. I spend my days trying to convince him being alive and with his family is more fun.My son is majorly suffering, but nobody seems to care. We are on the psychology waiting list for two years now.
I spend my time trying to convince him being alive is so much better even if it doesn’t feel like it. It is heartbreaking watching him suffer and listening to how he feels about himself and why he thinks being dead is the answer to his problems.
He wants to know why he is different, why he has struggled so much, but I don’t have the answers.

THESE WORDS contained in a letter from a concerned mother were read out in the Dáil today by Independent TD Mick Wallace.

He explained to the chamber that the boy referred to has been diagnosed with severe verbal and oral dyspraxia, sensory process disorder, high anxiety and it is suspected that he has other undiagnosed disorders.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), a free service that helps children and young people up to age 18 years of age with moderate to severe mental health difficulties, has seen this boy, but do not believe its service can help him, according to Wallace.

A letter from a concerned mother 

The deputy said CAMHS closed his case and never notified the boy’s mother, resulting in the mother writing the emotive letter to Wallace.

He asked the Minister of State for Mental Health, Helen McEntee, what steps are being taken to address cases like this and the chronic under-funding of child and adolescent mental health services.

“It is not acceptable that a ten-year old feels that he or she does not want to live and go on. That is part of a much wider conversation that we need to have at a much younger stage with our young people, so that they are able to express what it is that they are feeling and to identify what support they need. We also need to ensure that we have programmes that are suitable for the individuals,” said McEntee.

“We have always had a one size fits all approach. If a young person had a problem, he or she was automatically sent to CAMHS. We know that CAMHS is not the answer for everybody. That is why we are trying to look at supports within the community, which is where a young person at age ten is best-suited and would be best-provided for,” she added.

Wallace said children with mental health difficulties are ending up on endless waiting lists.

Endless waiting lists 

“If one is assessed and qualifies for child psychology services, one goes on an endless waiting list,” he said.

The minister admitted there were issues with CAMHS services, stating that it faces particular challenges in the recruitment and retention of staff.

“The HSE is addressing this on an ongoing basis. We have recruited 1,150 staff in the last four years and 270 of those have been for CAMHS teams. The HSE has also given priority to reducing the CAMHS waiting list, especially for those waiting over 12 months. This is dependent on the availability of key clinicians within teams, particularly CAMHS consultant psychiatrists,” said McEntee.

The minister added that she is also aware that there is no child consultant psychologist on call within emergency departments 24-7, stating that this is an issue her department is very concerned about.

Out-of-hours services 

The availability of child and adolescent mental health services outside of normal working hours was also a concern for Wallace.

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He said services outside of nine-to-five on Monday to Friday is non-existent in many parts of the country.

“The truth of the matter is that the service is not good enough,” said the Wexford TD. He said he rang two organisations after 5 o’clock and the numbers rang out.

During normal working hours, mental health services, including community mental health teams and emergency departments are available, said the minister.

For the on-call after hours period and throughout the weekend there is a consultant psychiatrist, a psychiatric registrar or senior house officer on duty in acute hospitals, explained the minister.

Since 2014, this has been supplemented by the development of the self-harm clinical programme where specialist nurses are available, she added.

A preliminary review of weekend access by the HSE mental health division shows that weekend mental health services are provided in only eight of the 17 mental health areas. A further eight areas have partial cover.

“I agree that there is a gap in the services,” admitted the minister, but added that the HSE is working to ensure that all areas get a weekend service and that the psychology posts which are not being filled within emergency departments are identified.

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