Teens with mental health issues are ‘cruelly’ being left behind


‘INEFFECTIVE, inconsistent and inadequate’ are the words used by a mother from Enniskillen to describe children’s mental health services in the Fermanagh area.

The mother, who did not want to be identified, told this newspaper that her 15-year-old child was transferred to Western Trust’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) three years ago, but says the youngsters and their families have been “cruelly” left behind, claiming that the mental health care of young people in this neighborhood has been “diabolical” especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Going to school caused severe anxiety even before the pandemic and that’s when the self-harm and insomnia started,” one mother told the Herald.

“The lockdown has started and of course all face-to-face appointments have been scrapped. Like many others, my child didn’t do very well on the phone and found it difficult to open up for the short amount of time and as a result my child’s anxiety got progressively worse.

The 15-year-old who is now awake at night with intrusive thoughts and suicidal thoughts had also been put on a long waiting list for an ASD diagnosis, despite urgently needing care and medication according to the mother.

“In the past three years, we’ve only seen a psychiatrist once,” she says. “The GPs in our area have been brilliant but they can’t even prescribe melatonin to help my child sleep at night as CAMHS has to say yes or no due to my child’s age.

“I’ve been following the advice for three years now and have tried absolutely everything from wind chimes to incense and therapeutic music at night.

“This is a medical issue, which requires medication which CAMHS is holding back for us due to the time it takes to see a psychiatrist.

“I don’t want a medicated child, I want the right medicine and the right diagnosis so he can have a certain quality of life.

“I even tried to get my child admitted to Beachcroft, which has the only child and adolescent psychiatry service in Northern Ireland.

“The only reason they didn’t give my child a bed is that although my child had suicidal thoughts, he didn’t say exactly how he would kill himself.

“So what’s my alternative?” Do I bring my child back to these people when they bleed and end up being part of an investigation to find out why all these services have failed us?

“As parents, we’re supposed to know all the answers, know how to help our kids and tell them it’s going to be okay, but I can’t handle this on my own.

“I had to quit my job because I can’t leave my child alone. The system has wasted years of my child’s life, he wants to be social and with his friends but doesn’t know how to be.

“I lose my beautiful and creative 15 year old daughter with every passing day. I go to the bedroom door every morning and am afraid to open it in case something happened. No parent should have to go through this.

While the Western Trust revealed it had seen a significant increase in the number of people aged 18 and under coming to emergency services for serious mental health issues, the parent concerned admitted that due to the advice from CAMHS, her only option was to continually take her child to the ER with injuries. following self-harm.

“I understand the wards are understaffed, but I have to think about my child,” she said. “Whether it’s a lack of funding or investment, there needs to be more trained key workers who will meet a child’s needs so we don’t end up depending on crisis teams.”

“Personally, over the years I’ve had more contact with crisis teams than key workers due to staff leaving and people not getting back to me when I have concerns.

“I don’t think I’ve spoken to a single parent who would call the only effective children’s mental health service we have. My child is in a constant state of deep, dark depression and I don’t know where we go from here.

In response, CAMHS is unable to comment on individuals for privacy/confidentiality reasons.

However, they previously said they had advanced a waitlist initiative offering new premier appointments and had also secured additional funding to “support staff recruitment and advancement of service development over the course of the next few years”.

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Posted: 4:52 p.m. Jan 29, 2022


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