"Current services aren't able to meet the demand presently" says Mental Health Champion to rise in children's mental health referrals

Figures obtained by UTV show that there were 10,675 referrals in 2021/2022, compared to 8719 in 2020/2021.

It comes as mental health service providers for children and young people say children as young as four are being referred.

CAMHS also said they have seen an 83% rise in referrals for eating disorders.

There is a new mental health strategy in place in Northern Ireland.

The Mental Health Champion Professor Siobhan O'Neill says children are being failed by the current provision:

"Current services aren't able to meet the demand presently we don't have enough staff, we don't have enough funding for mental health services and young people are finding that when they ask for help that they're put on waiting lists and that's not acceptable.

Speaking to UTV about the rise in referrals and the transition into adult mental health service Mental Health Champion, Professor Siobhan O'Neill said the mental health strategy addresses these issues but it is a ten year plan:

"Well that is a significant difficulty and it was highlighted in the consultations and there's an action within the mental health strategy to change the age of that transition from 18 to the mid 20s which is a much more appropriate stage we know developmentally that that's when maturity is achieved so that again is an action that was in the strategy to change that but that requires a lot of investment to meet that increased need so you can see why this is going to take ten years for all the packages of change that we need.

"It could be that we're becoming more aware of our mental health and more and more people are asking for help at an earlier stage, it also could be that there's pressure on primary care and those referrals are simply being made on the basis of phone calls without the triage without that analysis of what exactly it is so there's a number of reasons for it and of course young people are under significant pressure now, they've suffered as a result of the pandemic, there's an increased need there as well."

Link to the article: https://www.itv.com/news/utv/2023-02-07/almost-2000-more-referrals-for-child-and-adolescent-mental-health-services