Something needs to be done about the youthful and adolescent psychiatric problems that are besetting this country. We have one of the highest suicide rates in the world among young people.
This suicide rate grew in the best of economic times, but Dr John Connolly, secretary of the Irish Association of Suicidology, warns that suicides inevitably increase in times of recession. If the Government had implemented its plans in this area there would be about five times as many beds around the country for underage people in need of psychiatric care.
In 2007 there were 3,600 children on waiting lists and one-third of them had been there for more than a year. During that year 364 underage patients had to be admitted to adult psychiatric facilities, because there was no appropriate facility for them.
This was at the height of the Celtic Tiger economy, when money was being squandered on daft schemes and junkets of all kinds. By the end of 2008 the waiting list was still essentially the same.
Today’s children are the future of the country and solving the problems now would save a multiple of the cost of dealing with them in future years. Untreated mental health problems generate distress not just in childhood, but extends into adulthood and can even affect the mental health of the next generation of children.
A considerable proportion of prisoners in our jails have psychiatric problems. This is not to suggest that such people are primarily responsible for the criminal behaviour in society, they are not, but they are a significant part of the problem nevertheless.
By ignoring these difficulties we have been inviting problems in the future when they will be much more difficult to handle and the cost to the country will be so much higher in the long run.
Of course, the blame can be put on the Government and the Health Service Executive, but society as a whole must also accept responsibility, because it has tolerated shoddy and inefficient service. Eminent doctors are telling us that now is not the time to cut the health budgets, because suicide rates go up in recessionary times. Admissions to hospitals and problems related to alcohol and drug abuse also increase.
In effect, the most vulnerable young people are being held hostage in this sordid game of bureaucratic bungling.
Frontline health services should not be cut, but there are gross bureaucratic inefficiencies that could and should be eliminated, and medical profession should be doing more to highlight such wasteful practices. Otherwise their complaints are likely to be seen as whingeing and promoting their own self-interest.
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