Waiting Lists For Mental Health Services Rise

An Ulster Unionist MLA has warned that growing delays in accessing mental health treatment could be damaging for children and young people in Northern Ireland.

Officially, no child should wait more than nine weeks to access the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), but recent figures show a rise in those waiting longer- from 66 at the end of March 2018 to 487.

Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler said the number of adults waiting for treatment more than doubled from 648 last year to 1,529 at the end of March 2019- representing a major shortage of capacity within the local system.

Of the 487 young people waiting longer than the maximum allowed period of 9 weeks, 294 were routine referrals for those who are experiencing mild to moderate mental health difficulties, and a further 179 were for those requiring support for more complex needs.

Around 1 in 5 adults in Northern Ireland suffer from mental health problems, but Mr Butler said the scale of the issue among children and young people is often overlooked.

Highlighting the need for increased capacity, he commented: "CAMHS has a crucial role in promoting emotional well-being and as well as delivering treatment and preventative mental health services to children and young people aged 0 – 18 years of age who experience significant mental health difficulties.
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"Research has shown that 50% of mental health problems emerge by age 14 and that childhood adversities such as dysfunction in families and poor parental mental health are strongly linked to the onset of mental health problems in childhood and subsequent continuation into adulthood. Yet through early intervention it is possible to reverse this and therefore prevent mental health problems being pervasive in families and becoming transgenerational.

"That's why it is so important to ensure that children and young people with mental health needs are seen by the right person at the right time and in the right place.

"I am seriously concerned now though that the current delays in both child and adult mental health assessments and treatments will be causing detrimental and lasting harm to some of the people unfortunately getting caught up in them."

The Ulster Unionist mental health spokesperson said the continued political impasse at Stormont while pressures on mental health services continue to grow is a "scandal".

"Northern Ireland has the highest suicide rates throughout the UK, we also have by far the highest rates of poor mental health and yet we're the only UK region without a current mental health strategy. The 'Protect Life 2' suicide strategy has been left waiting on a shelf simply because we don't have a local Minister in place to push in through.

"This latest revelation that the numbers of people waiting for mental health support or intervention are spiralling should be more than enough to force the two main political parties to get their act together and agree the immediate restoration of the Assembly."


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