While the economy is beginning to recover, Irelands mental health services are continuing to fail. There is a major lack of funding in mental health services that deal with children and adolescences. A child or adolescence that is experiencing mental health difficulties could have to wait up to a year to receive the specialised treatment required. This is because the HSE has said that the majority of child and adolescent teams are under staffed. The young people of Ireland are the future of Irish society. So why are the government failing them?
By the end of March 2014, there were 452 children and adolescences waiting for more than 12 months for an appointment in a mental health service, according to the Mental Health Reform 2015. This has greatly increased from 272 in September 2012, and 413 in September 2013. How is a parent supposed to live at ease for up to 12 months, knowing their child could be a danger to themselves? This is too long for any person to have to wait for help, and in many cases, it is too long to save a person’s life.
From January 2013 to September 2013 there were a total of 306 children that were under the age of 18 admitted to mental health services. However, 22% of these children were admitted to adult health units. These figures increase in the first quarter of 2014, with 34% of children and adolescents admitted to adult psychiatric units.
The 2014 Budget allocated €20 million to be used for the development of community mental health teams, which includes child and adolescent mental health teams. This is 43% less than the €35 million committed to in the ‘Programme for Government’. The Mental Health Reform 2015 states that an additional €50 million is dedicated to mental health services in 2015, as promised by Kathleen Lynch, TD, the Minister of State responsible for mental health.
According to the Mental Health Reform, spending on mental health in general has dropped from 13% of the overall health budget in 1986, to 6.4% in 2009, and further decreased to 5.3% in 2010. Mental health in Ireland represents just 9% of the healthcare work force, where as other European countries allocate over 20% of the total health budget directly on mental health service.
The World Health Organisation data states that Ireland has the fourth highest youth suicide rate in the EU. However, we are one of the countries that spend the least on mental health services. Currently, there is a suicide death of a child or adolescence in Ireland every 18 days.
According to the Child and adolescent mental health services, there is only half of the staff required employed in child and adolescent mental health services. Also, some crisis services are only available Monday – Friday during office hours. The HSE need to recruit an efficient amount of staff to ensure there is a 24 hour services available to families and individuals, 7 days a week.
The majority of services available in Ireland that help people cope with mental health issues, are non-governmental organisations that are controled by volunteers. Teen-Line Ireland is a confidential free-phone service open every day of the week, which is set up mainly for teenagers. I spoke with Luke Clerkin who works as a fundraiser for the organisation. He informed me that he busks on the streets of Dublin himself, in order to try and raise money for the organisation.
The cost of going to a GP, as well as on going medication can often be the cause of a person with mental health issues or emotional stress not receiving the appropriate help. The Department of Health should ensure that all people who require long term mental health treatment are medical card holders, which will guarantees they are granted the appropriate help and medication needed.
The Irish government received a D grade from the Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2013. In 2014, instead of improvements being made, Ireland disappointed further and received an E grade. Ms Julie Ahern, the membership development officer of the Children’s Rights Alliance informed me that the Irish Government received this grade due to a number of factors: Fencing €20 million for the development of mental health services as appose to the €35 million committed, the increase in the number of children on waiting lists for mental health appointments, and because of the 68 children who were admitted to adult psychiatric units. Also, inspection reports for adolescent in-patient units have indicated serious failures in providing appropriate standards of care.
‘The Children’s Rights Alliance’ and ‘Amnesty International Ireland’ have brought together 38 non-governmental organisations to form a Children’s Mental Health Coalition. This newly formed Coalition has launched a public declaration to demand action from the Government. Their aim is to encourage the Government, political parties, State agencies and all those working with children, use their powers to ensure that every child has a right to a stable mental health. Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, said in a report, “We need to invest in children’s well-being. Failure to do so will cost more in the long run. There will also be a terrible human cost – too many in our communities have experienced the pain of mental health problems and suicide”. “Not only does the Government have a legal and moral obligation to improve the lives of children in Ireland, it has the power to make this happen”.
Mental health services in Ireland have a lot of fixtures to complete before being at the appropriate standard they should already be at. According to the Children’s Rights Alliance, for the Irish Government to pass their report next year, they must reverse the €15 million reduction in development of funding for mental health services, and ensure that all children under the age of 18 receive age-appropriate and timely mental health services and treatment. They must put in place a legislative framework to fulfil the rights of children and adolescents with mental health difficulties and develop a National Strategy to address the mental health needs of young people in care and detention. They must also complete recruitment of a specialist therapeutic team for children in special care and detention.