Mental health: shame on the

Government and US as well

It’s almost impossible sometimes to get your head around the depth and width of the Government’s stunningly shocking ineptitude.

It’s only now – or to be more precisely ‘shortly’ – that an inquiry is commencing into the treatment provided for children and teenagers by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in North Kerry. This is one year after Kerry’s Eye revealed that the HSE is facing a raft of compensation claims by parents on behalf of their children because of terrible failures in the CAMHS service in South Kerry.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and his sidekick, Junior Minister Mary Butler, who has responsibility for mental health services, will never be accused of jumping the gun – and that’s for sure. Think of slowcoach reaction time, and multiply that by any number you like.

Junior Minister Butler says an investigation into the North Kerry CAMHS services will start ‘shortly’, which is something she could have said last month, the month before that, or any month in recent times for all it means. Like, how is one supposed to measure when this probe will actually commence with that kind of malarky.

Such lack of precision is a measure of the low priority assigned in this country to mental health in general and to children’s mental health in particular. That such a crucial inquiry - the need for which is manifest and urgent – is delayed after unforgivable failings in South Kerry speaks to a Government that really doesn’t know its arse from its elbow. Priorities are all wrong.

The North Kerry probe will examine a sample of 50 files in the hope that positive results can ‘give assurance’ for those availing of its services. Presumably, negative results will prompt a more in-depth investigation like that which occurred in South Kerry, and which uncovered the most appalling abuse of young children following on from wrong diagnoses, plus wrong and over-medication.

Mental health has been neglected for decades. They thought that closing down the huge institutions, like the old St Finan’s in Killarney, would be revolutionary. However, it only shifted the mental health problem back into the community – and there it has lain, without adequate service or resourcing.

Children in need of care have been particularly let down. They have been abandoned to ever-lengthening waiting lists, left to suffer with only their shocked and struggling parents and families to help them.

We’ve all been too quiet about this State torture of vulnerable people in trouble. We’ve been too understanding of alleged resource difficulties and the like. We’ve been much too patient.

Our silence has acquiesced in people’s torment. We’ve been cruel by not demanding more from our government and State services. Shame on us all.