The kids who are likely dying on wait lists

 

Children under 10 are being counselled for anxiety and hopelessness by their local general practitioners, as there is a six-month wait to see a mental health professional.

There are only 50 child and adolescent psychiatrists currently practising throughout Queensland, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for services and suicides are predicted to soar.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Queensland confirms there is a shortage of mental health professionals and is desperately trying to recruit more into the specialty of child psychiatry.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Queensland chair Bruce Gillett said: "I would suspect that there are children and adolescents dying on the waiting list, and it is an awful situation for GPs to feel responsible for kids who need help and are impulsive and could commit suicide."

As new modelling predicts catastrophic levels of youth suicide sparked by COVID-19, Dr Gillett believes some of the Federal Government's $48.1 million cash injection for mental health support in the wake of the pandemic should be allocated to the training of GPs in the psych area and a strengthening of the underfunded public mental health system.

"It is not a good situation when there is nowhere to get help fast for the state's children," he said.

"Our doctors need to be trained in how to help these struggling kids as prescribing medications is not the way we like to go with young people."

While most of the state's facilities have a waiting list some have closed their doors to new patients as they are at their limit.

The modelling from the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre shows that the pandemic will contribute to a 30 per cent increase in teens taking their lives.

Experts have already predicted that the suicide rate in Australia will be 10 times higher than the number of deaths caused by the virus.

 

 

The current data is showing the impact on children and adolescents. Kids Helpline shows there is a call for help to the Kids Helpline every 69 seconds, and since March there has been almost 40 per cent increase in counselling on last year.

Government funding has helped the service employ 50 more counsellors for the unprecedented demand.

A Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Queensland spokeswoman said: "In our pre-Budget submission to the Queensland Government earlier this year, we asked them to commit to a target of 80 per cent of the National Mental Health Framework funding in community mental health services by 2024 at a rate of 5 per cent per year.

"And also to implement a central workforce unit and a statewide mental health workforce strategy unit.

"We have also been advocating for a while now on the need for psychiatry workforce shortages to be addressed, especially in particular areas such as child and adolescent psychiatry."

Queensland Health said there were strategies in place to ensure emergency department and other wards were equipped to manage increased mental health presentations.

"The established School-Based Youth Health Nurse program provides nursing support services for students in state high schools," a spokesman said.

"Hospital and health services are working with general practitioners, non-government organisations and Primary Health Networks to ensure mental health services are accessible.

"The Queensland Government is investing an extra $46.5 million to support Queenslanders' mental health and wellbeing through programs across the state.

"We have also established a COVID-19 grant fund, which has awarded 89 grants totalling around $12.54 million to organisations to deliver a range of mental health services, including services tailored to children and adolescents affected by the uncertainty and physical/social isolation impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic."

 

2020 mental health crisis

* Suicides will outnumber virus deaths tenfold

* Suicides in youth will rise nearly a third

* Teenagers at greatest risk of loneliness

* Rising unemployment sparks child abuse/stress

* Rise in anxiety/eating disorders in children

* Double number of kids at GP with anxiety


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