Teens with mental health issues ‘cruelly’ left behind

“INEFFECTIVE, inconsistent and inadequate” are the words used by one Enniskillen mother to describe child mental health services across the Fermanagh area.

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

“Attending school caused severe anxiety even before the pandemic and that’s when the self-harming and insomnia began,” one mother told the Herald.


“Lockdown started and of course all face-to-face appointments were scrapped. Like many others, my child didn’t do very well over the phone and found it difficult to open up during the short time-frame given and as a result my child’s anxiety got progressively worse.”

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

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

“I’ve gone by the advice for three years now and I’ve tried absolutely everything from wind chimes to incense and therapy music at night.

“This is a medical problem, that requires medicine which CAMHS are holding us back from due to the length of time it takes to see a psychiatrist.

“I don’t want a medicated child, I want the correct medication and correct diagnosis so that they can have some quality of life.

“I even tried to have my child admitted into Beachcroft which has the only child and adolescent psychiatrists ward in Northern Ireland.


“The only reason why they wouldn’t give my child a bed was because although my child has suicidal ideations, they haven’t voiced exactly how they would take their own life.

“So what is my alternative? Do I bring my child back to these people when they are bleeding out and end up being part of an inquiry as to why all of these services have failed us?

“As parents we’re supposed to know all the answers, to know how to help our children and to tell them that everything is going to be ok, but I can’t handle this by myself.

“I’ve had to leave my job as I can’t leave my child alone. The system has wasted years of my child’s life, they want to be social and with their friends but don’t know how to be.

“I’m losing my beautiful and creative 15-year-old everyday that goes by. I go to the bedroom door every morning and I’m afraid to open it in case something has happened. No parent should have to go through that.”

While the Western Trust revealed that it has seen a significant rise in those aged 18 and under attending emergency departments for serious mental health issues, the concerned parent admitted that due to advice from CAMHS her only option is to continuously take her child to ED with wounds as a result of self-harming.

“I understand that services are short staffed but I have my child to think about,” she said. “Whether it’s down to lack of funding and investment, there needs to be more trained key workers that will meet a child’s needs so that we don’t end up reliant on crisis teams.

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

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

In response, CAMHS are unable to comment on individuals due to reasons of privacy/confidentiality.

However, they have stated previously that they have progressed a waiting list initiative offering new choice appointments and have also secured additional funding to “support staffing recruitment and the progression of the development of the service over the forthcoming years”.


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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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