Gemma Brolly: "Children's Mental Health Week" Welcome, But Young People's Well-Being Is Still Lacking Real Government Support
East Derry Election Candidate and Education Spokesperson, Gemma Brolly, welcomes initiatives such as “Children’s Mental Health Week”, but cautions that without adequate government support, children and parents will be let down once again.
Brolly: "As a parent, teacher and Special Needs Co-ordinator, I am deeply saddened and concerned by the ever increasing waiting times and constantly growing numbers on mental health related waiting lists.
The Commissioner for Children and Young People has been clear that the waiting time for a routine appointment for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services(CAMHS) should not exceed 9 weeks; yet our young people are currently waiting more than 9 MONTHS for URGENT medical and educational appointments. In March 2014 there were 114 children waiting more than 9 weeks for CAMHS appointments, 6 years later this figure has increased to 552. We have recently learned that there has been a 24% increase in the number of referrals to counselling and CAMHS from emergency departments and that 451 children waiting more than 9 MONTHS for URGENT appointments.
In 2020/21, 40% of children and young people were discharged from CAMHS without having fully reached their target, where are these children and young people now? What about those referrals for mental health support which were turned down?
Just this year we had significant department funding allocated for “Wellbeing” and “Healthy, Happy Minds.” While this was a remarkable step in the right direction, there is still work to be done regarding the recruitment of the Department approved professionals required to deliver the programmes to improve the Mental Health and Wellbeing of our Children. While we are on the right path, my party and I wholeheartedly believe there is need for increased commitment and action from our government. The Commissioner’s “Still Waiting” report made 50 recommendations, many of these urgent. The progress on these recommendations really needs to gather pace and power, not suffer threat and setback through others selfishly prioritising their own gains over the mental health and wellbeing of our children.
Whilst “Children’s Mental Health Week” is a wonderful initiative in which to raise awareness and develop understanding, Aontú believes this should be happening every day of every week. It cannot be left to parents and educators. Aontú believes our young people deserve the full support of their government in securing the highest standard of health and wellbeing possible and will continue to do all we can to provide this and demand those in positions of power to do the same.