A new report warning that children are ‘lost’ in Ireland’s mental health services is “absolutely terrifying” for any family with a loved on seeking help, according to Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley.
The interim report of an independent review of Ireland’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) has found that some children have not been offered follow-up appointments and others did not get advice about medication or appointments to review their prescriptions.
The report found large numbers of ‘lost’ cases – with some children not offered appointments for up to two years.
In one catchment area, there were 140 ‘lost’ cases reported and there is evidence that teams in some areas were not monitoring antipsychotic medication, in accordance with international standards.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley said CAMHS is in crisis.
“I’m not surprised,” she said. “As a psychotherapist, I’ve consistently heard really bad reports about CAMHS.
“There are definitely some shining lights working within CAMHS, there are brilliant people, but they are carrying something systemically dysfunctional that is allowing an awful lot of young people [fall through the cracks].
“For every young person who has got to the point where they are going to CAMHS, already a private tragedy is happening, already they are in very frightening place in their mental health during adolescence and their parents are doing the right thing.
“They are going to people and saying, ‘this is beyond us can you help us,’ and the presumption is, when you are in that very frightening place with your children, that you will get good services.
“To hear that there is, kind of, widespread inappropriate and lacking services is absolutely terrifying for every family that is involved in this.”
She said the report shows that “we have a crisis here and it needs to be dealt with”.
“It is something that loads of people - psychotherapists, councillors all over the place - are saying, ‘what’s going on?’” she said.
“Why do people go to CAMHS and come out feeling worse or feeling much more powerless than they were when they went in?”
The report noted that some CAMHS teams are significantly understaffed as the sector deals with an ongoing recruitment and retention crisis.
As a result, services have become inefficient and unsafe.
Ms O’Malley said the situation is “very frightening” for families.
“The thing about CAMHS - and this is one thing I’ve really noticed - is, you are so at the mercy of who you are assigned to,” she said.
“One person is assigned somebody who is great and another person is assigned somebody who either doesn’t have the time or isn’t being assiduous and committed to the case.
“So, the family are left thinking, I think I’m getting enough care but I’m not sure because we’re really not improving and there seems to be a lot of passing along.
“It is very, very frightening for every family involved and it is a tragedy.”
You can listen back here: