Cork mother says her faith in CAMHS is ‘completely destroyed’

She said that the staff at the MUH ED “couldn’t have been nicer” during what was an extremely traumatic experience for her son.
Cork mother says her faith in CAMHS is ‘completely destroyed’

A Cork mother has said that a recent experience at a hospital emergency department has “completely destroyed any faith” she had in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Picture: Pexels

A Cork mother has said that a recent experience at a hospital emergency department has “completely destroyed any faith” she had in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Anne was left with no option but to bring her son to the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) ED recently, following a difficult time at home: Her son was extremely agitated, hysterically crying, and communicating that he wanted to die.

She said that her son was being weaned off one medication on to another and that there were also changes in his routine, with school tours and school holidays, and that it was “possibly a combination” that heightened his anxiety.

After contacting the local CAMHS office, Anne was told that the psychiatrist her son had been dealing with was off until the following Monday.

After some time, her son worsened and she rang CAMHS again, who offered an appointment on the Friday - the next day - which Anne said she could not wait for. She was then told that A&E was an option.

“This is always said to me. ‘If you can’t keep him safe, go to A&E’.”

She said that the staff at the MUH ED “couldn’t have been nicer” during what was an extremely traumatic experience for her son.

She said that he was examined by the ED doctor, but there was nothing physically wrong, and numerous attempts by staff to contact a member of CAMHS, who comes to assess a child in need, amounted to nothing.

“Once they got through they said they weren’t working but would pass the message along to the person on call, but there was no call and when they tried to ring them back, they didn’t answer,” she said.

“It’s not their fault, but I was gobsmacked. I have lost count of the number of times CAMHS and Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNT) psychologists have said if you’re ever in fear, if you have immediate fear for his safety, go to A&E. We went to A&E, and nobody could do anything. It’s unbelievable.

“This was nothing new to the staff either. I am so angry over it, and it has to be highlighted. How must they feel that their job is to help people and they’re coming into us unable to help and their hands are completely tied because the person that should be helping can’t be contacted.”

They left the ED after 11pm on Thursday night. The next morning Anne contacted the local CAMHS office again and received an appointment.

She said: “The gist of it was to lock away knives, remove any dangers, and let the medication settle, and wait until it improves, and give it a couple of weeks and increase if needs be, but they wouldn’t do anything immediately.

“What is the point of bringing my child to A&E if there is no immediate fix or help?

“The whole thing is so traumatic for a child on the spectrum. I don’t know what would have happened if someone from CAMHS came, but it has completely destroyed any faith I have in them.”

Anne said she is now left with no other option than to find another avenue “because he’s just not getting help”.

She said: “What’s the point in asking them for help when you don’t get help? CAMHS refused so many referrals. They have a huge rate of refusing and we’re in the system for four years and this is our level of service. There are hundreds of people fighting to get into CAMHS and they don’t realise they’re not going to be helping them.”

When contacted by The Echo, the HSE said it cannot comment on individual cases but acknowledged that “more recently we have experienced a difficulty recruiting CAMHS non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) and therefore the service provided to the emergency departments was adjusted to NCHD’s attending at specific times on a seven-day basis”.

“However, the recruitment to CAMHS has improved and we are currently working on extended availability of CAMHS on call to emergency departments when NCHD’s recruitment has been complete into autumn time.

“The emergency departments will have access to a CAMHS on-call rota with direct contact with the on-call doctor available.

“In a crisis situation, we would urge the service user to engage with their GP or present to the nearest emergency department where necessary supports will be available.”

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