Teen mental health concern - 'The lack of staff charged with caring for children and adolescents is unacceptable'

Mental health services for children and teenagers are provided by just over half the staff recommended in a major report — published 10 years ago.

Staffing of Child and Adolescent Mental Health teams (CAMHS) are just 51.6% the level recommended in A Vision for Change, a government report on mental health policy, published in 2006.

Last year, 19% of children admitted to hospital with mental health issues spent time in adult psychiatric wards, the Mental Health Commission’s annual report showed.

Being an “immediate serious risk to self and/or others”, combined with lack of an age-appropriate beds, were recorded as the main reasons children were admitted to adult wards, the report noted.

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services chief executive Paul Gilligan says reducing the numbers of teens and children admitted to adult wards is a complex issue that requires more staff, but also a strong focus on support services.

“We know from the World Health Organization and from international research, it’s best to treat mental health with early intervention and evidence-based practices,” he said.

“Mental health issues develop during teenage years, and this is the best time to intervene.”

Mr Gilligan added it was important to address the stigma attached to mental health.

“The lack of staff charged with caring for children and adolescents is unacceptable, and will have dire knock-on consequences for the futures of these young people if it not addressed as a matter of urgency,” says James Browne, Fianna Fáil spokesman on mental health.

“We cannot stand idly by and allow this insufficiency in our mental health services to continue. These vulnerable young people and their families and guardians deserve better from the State.”

To stop admissions of children to adult wards, emergency CAMHS services and an increase in recruitment are needed immediately, Mr Browne added.

At the end of 2015, there was about 604 CAMHS staff nationally, 51% of the amount recommended . It had increased 2.1% last year.

Despite a request, the HSE did not comment yesterday.

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