The Review has been the most extensive engagement with children and young people about their direct experiences of accessing, or trying to access, support for their mental health across the system - including GPs, the education sector, specialist mental health services, emergency departments and hospital care and the voluntary and community sector. It also heard from parents, carers and professionals working within the system.
The title ‘Still Waiting’ refers to the length of time young people wait before seeking help, and the time it takes for them to receive the right support.
Responding to the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People’s ‘Still Waiting’ review, Dr Julie-Ann Maney of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:
“Mental health is still very much regarded as the poorer relative to physical health so it is fantastic to see the Children’s Commissioner give it the attention it so desperately needs.
“Over the last 10 years, the stigma that clung to mental health has slowly been shifting, but unfortunately, as awareness grows and the demands placed upon the service increases, support for patients has not kept up with demand. This lack of support can have a lasting influence on a child’s life – it can lead to poor employment prospects, an increased risk of drug and alcohol use and as an urgent and emergency care doctor, it has meant I see vulnerable children at crisis point, requiring life-saving intervention.
“To ensure children in Northern Ireland receive the support they need, action must be taken on three fronts: prevention, access and integration. We need policy makers to act quickly to ensure everyone who works with children has mental health training, allowing them to identify and act early, if they suspect a child might be at risk of developing a mental health issue. Secondly, children must be able to access services at any time and any place, whether that be through the education system, primary care or child health services. But in order to do that effectively, services must be integrated and properly funded. This country’s mental health crisis isn’t going to go away overnight, but with the right attention, no child will be left in crisis and we can go from ‘still waiting’ to supporting children in Northern Ireland to survive and thrive.”