The number of young people waiting over 18 months for an appointment CAMHS has increased four-fold within a year.
According to new Freedom of Information figures, just under 4,000 young people are waiting to be seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
In November 2021, there were 3,357 people on the waiting list and a year later that had increased by almost 600 to just below 4,000.
In the same period, the number of young people waiting longer than 18 months increased four-fold – from 48 to 218.
The figures also show that children were sent to adult psychiatric units 79 times over the past three years – including 20 times last year.
The Mental Health Commission says children should not be admitted to adult units, except in exceptional circumstances.
Trinity Psychiatry Professor Brendan Kelly told Newstalk that adult units should only be a last resort.
“Being mentally ill or having an acute crisis like this is very scary,” he said.
“It is very disturbing for anybody and for children to suddenly find themselves surrounded by adults rather than people their own age; that can compound the problems they are experiencing.
“The setting is so important and adult psychiatry units are simply unsuited to children and adolescents.”
He said the practice must be brought to an end.
“Children and adolescents who need inpatient psychiatric care really need that care in a dedicated child and adolescent unit,” he said.
“There is no substitute for that for these, you know, often very ill, very disturbed or young people in crisis.
“But often, hard-pressed clinicians have no alternative available to them except the adult units.”
The longest CAMHS waiting lists are in the Cork and Kerry area.
Some 810 young people were on the waiting list in November, with nearly a third waiting over a year, and 101 waiting over 18 months.
The Clare, Limerick, North Tipperary and East Limerick area is also badly affected, with the latest data showing 60 people waiting over a year and a half.
Earlier this week, the Mental Health Commission published a damning report into CAMHS, criticising the lack of follow-up care children received.