Parents are left with “nowhere to turn and no-one to talk to” when their children are not getting adequate care from HSE mental health services, according to a Wexford father.
Raymond Shannon was speaking to Newstalk Breakfast after the Taoiseach ordered an audit of every HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in the country.
Micheál Martin announced the move after a report found that ‘significant harm’ was caused to 46 children at a South Kerry service between July 2016 and April 2021.
The report found that the care received by a total of 240 young people was sub-standard – with examples of “unreliable diagnoses, inappropriate prescriptions and poor monitoring of treatment and potential adverse effects”.
The affected children suffered issues including weight gain, sedation, elevated blood pressure and galactorroea (the production of breast milk).
Mr Shannon told Newstalk his son never received adequate care in his time at CAMHS.
“My son was very ill all his life,” he said. “He first attempted to end his life when he was 13.”
“Then, when he was 15, he was under the care of Dr Kieran Moore in Slaney House in Wexford South. Dr Moore left the position in June 2018 on the grounds that he found it unsafe and unfair on the patients that are attending the service due to the lack of staff.
“Soon afterwards, my son made a serious attempt on his life for which he was admitted to an adult psychiatric unit in Waterford for a period for seven days.
“He was given with medication but no treatment - no talk therapy or nothing like that - because he wasn’t a patient of theirs. He was a CAMHS patient in an adult psychiatric unit.
“As parents, we begged and pleaded for him to be sent to a CAMHS unit and were told on a daily basis that there were no beds available anywhere in the country. In the five units, there wasn’t one bed available.
“He was terrified in the adult unit because of the noise.”
He said he felt helpless while his son was suffering and was eventually forced to take him out of there himself.
“There is nowhere to turn. There is no-one to talk to,” he said. “They are just beating you off. There are no beds; there’s no staff available
“I brought him down as a parent for his own safety because I nowhere to bring him in Wexford after 5pm in the evening.
“There is no out of hours service in CAMHS. Caredoc don’t want to know because it is mental health. The local A&E don’t have a psychiatrist on call or even a psychiatric nurse on call after 5pm so Waterford was the only answer.”
"Shock and horror"
Also on the show, the Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon expressed his “absolute shock and horror” at the South Kerry CAMHS report.
“Families were so let down and there must be a real fear there around Kerry now about going into any CAMHS service – which is going to do a huge disservice for those children and young people.
“So, there is a real sense of shame and lack of trust in regard to that.”
Noting that there are 72 CAMHS services around the country when there should be over 100, he said child mental health services are really understaffed, under-resourced and under-invested.
“The real thing here is the lack of governance and support for this service,” he said.
“Individuals were not held to account. There was no case management. There was no data protection. There was no shared clinical diaries – so it really seems like a free for all for individuals ignoring the rules.”
If you are affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, you can call:
- Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or Txt HELP to 51444
- Samaritans on 116 123
- HSE information line for people who attended the CAMHS service on 1800 742 800
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