The news of the closure of 11 beds at the Linn Dara unit of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) marks the latest failure of the state in relation to mental health. The closure, which is due to a severe staffing shortage that is reflected throughout the mental health services, will remain in place until at least September.
Until then there will only be 56 beds in CAMHS for the entire country. Fears have been raised that vulnerable children will be put into adult mental health units because of these shortages. As of February 2022 there were 3914 children on waiting lists for CAMHS, which is a 40% increase from 2021. 321 of these children have been waiting more than 12 months to be seen.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin described the situation as “regrettable” which will not provide much comfort to the children and their families suffering as a result of the closure. Young people are being failed by the state in relation to mental health and very little is being done to change this.
Mental health crisis
Serious measures need to be taken to tackle the crisis of understaffing in the mental health services. Nurses and other mental health staff must have decent terms and working conditions and an end to unsustainable overtime demands. The 2022 Budget saw funding of €37 million toward mental health, which falls far short of what is needed and does not solve the staffing problems faced.
Meanwhile, we face a growing privatisation throughout the mental health services. The lack of support provided by the state forces people to access costly private care which is either outside the means of most people or will force people to take on heavy debts to get the care needed for loved one. One of the consequences of this is a fragmentation of care and lack of integrated multi-disciplinary care where people are left to source often complex care by themselves with maybe a few tips from GPs or overstretched CAMHS.
As socialists, we fight for a free mental health service at the point of access for as long as is needed, as well as a reversal to all cuts and privatisation, and a real solution to the understaffing crisis.