The State Government’s chronic underfunding of mental health services is putting lives at risk as a lack of resources forces children, adolescents and their families through a hospital system with little support, Shadow Mental Health Minister Libby Mettam said.
Following a grievance to parliament today, Ms Mettam said the State Government was failing our kids.
“In the past decade, emergency departments in the metropolitan area have recorded a 214% increase in self-harm, suicide risk or attempted suicide cases in the 13 to 17 year age group and a 403% increase in the under 13s,” Ms Mettam said.
“Yet the funding for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services represents only 6.5 per cent of the total $1.013 billion mental health budget.
“We also know that the true figure of kids needing help is much higher. I have heard from some parents that their children were turned away from EDs because they weren’t ‘sick’ enough or ‘suicidal’ enough to be there.
“Presenting at a hospital is often a last resort for these parents who are at their wits end with worry and then to be turned away is devastating.
“Those that are admitted are discharged when they are stable, often without proper community support, only to be readmitted within days or weeks, creating a revolving door of hospitalisation.
“It is very clear that there is a crisis and we need more than a bandaid to fix it.”
Supported by grieving parents Meron Savage and Pamella Fink, who both believe the mental health system failed their children, Ms Mettam said it was clear the system was broken.
“What the underfunding has meant is only the most acute cases are treated with a focus on crisis management. There is a big gap in early intervention and community support programs,” Ms Mettam said.
“We now have a system where children and teens are waiting months to even be assessed in either the public or private health sector, while their mental health deteroriates.
“One mother I spoke to this week said she had booked her teenager into a clinic in the Eastern States because there was no viable option in WA. She was now desperately trying to keep her daughter alive long enough to get there.”
Clinicians and school nurses are also sounding the alarm, with one expert saying there was a “tsunami” of cases coming to PCH and another claiming they had failed this generation.
Ms Mettam said the State Government was turning a blind eye and our kids were paying the price.
“There have been at least eight reviews and reports and multiple recommendations in The Western Australian Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Services Plan 2015-2025 to fix the system,” Ms Mettam said.
“The problem lies with Treasury – they simply won’t fund the recommendations and the problem is getting worse. The kids are presenting at a younger age, the distress of families and clinicians continues to escalate.
“These are not numbers on a page, these are kids who are at risk and could go on to lead happy and healthy lives if they receive the right support early. They deserve much better, especially in a State such as ours.
“We have had multiple reports, plans and reviews. It is clear our children can’t wait and now is the time to act.”