Steady increase in young people seeking mental health support

Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Children's Commissioner.
Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Children's Commissioner.

There has been a steady increase in the number of children and young people being referred for specialist mental health support in the Southern Trust area in the last three years.

That’s a key finding of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People’s ongoing review of mental health services and support.

The review reveals that while the number of referrals in the local area are increasing, last year more than a third (37 per cent) were not accepted into the service.

Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner said: “The number of children being referred by health professionals for an assessment for specialist mental health or ‘Tier 3’ services in the Southern Trust has increased from 1,209 in 2013/14 to 1,812 in 2015/16. However, the percentage of children being accepted by the service is decreasing (72 per cent to 63 per cent respectively).

“There is no data available to tell us why they have been refused by the service, where these vulnerable children go after they are refused, or if they receive another service or none, because the system does not record that data.”

Specialist Mental Health Services or ‘Tier 3’ services are those to which children are referred by GPs and other child health professionals when their mental ill health is having a ‘severe or enduring impact on their daily psychological, social and/or educational functioning.’

Koulla continued: “The rise in the number of children being referred to the service may mean more children are seeking help for their mental health - and that can only be a good thing.

“The investment and resource within these services must meet the need and this is not currently the case when for every pound spent on mental health our government invest less that 8p on children and young people.”

Across Northern Ireland last year (2015/16) 8,285 children and young people were referred to specialist mental health services for an assessment; 4,781 (58 per cent) were accepted and 3,504 (42 per cent) were not.

The Commissioner urged children and young people (11 - 21) who have tried to obtain help for their mental health, as well as their parents and carers, to visit the online survey - - so their experiences are captured and can help shape the future of mental health services.