Around 75 percent of children with a severe mental health disorder aren’t receiving support, estimates The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP).
Professor Valsa Eapen, chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said “Too many children in need of professional mental health support are missing out and that includes preschool children and parents or caregivers supporting them.”
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“The pandemic has made an already bad situation worse and our children can’t wait. The time is right now.”
The statement from the RANZCP came ahead of the Australian Federal Government’s National Early Years Strategy and Summit, which was held earlier this year on February 17. Eapen said that it was crucial that governments create actionable plans to support citizens in the first five years of life.
“Most adult mental health problems have their origins in childhood and adolescence, with children affected by parental mental illness being at particularly high risk.”
Eapen also urged the Australian Federal Government to increase funding for mental health support services.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand childhood mental health services have been described as reaching “crisis point”. In 2021, the child and adolescent mental health services saw around 51,000 patients, stretching the limits of the service’s capacity.
An investigation conducted by the Herald in 2022 found “services across the country have struggled to provide an adequate level of care, putting patients at risk and causing staff to burn out”. Issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders were found to be amplified by the pandemic. Having been under-resourced for several years, the service found itself struggling to respond to growing need. The Herald found that some DHBs had clinicians with double the safe workload.
In New Zealand, the response has been to increase the threshold of acceptance, meaning vulnerable individuals are turned away. A specialist team for rangatahi Māori was in an even worse state, the investigation found.
As of 2022, youth mental health services received only $3600 per patient, while adult services received $5800 of funding per patient. Although Labour increased funding in 2021, psychiatrists are worried that this won’t be enough to keep up with rising demand.
In New Zealand, it is unknown what percentage of caseloads fall in the under 5s category.
If you or anyone you know is affected by mental illness 1737 is here to help, for free. You can also contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention.