Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has described the news that the Tallaght Jigsaw youth mental health service has the longest waiting time in the State as deeply worrying and unacceptable.

The Sinn Féin TD, who is a member of the Oireachtas Mental Health Committee, said that it was crystal clear that the Jigsaw service needs more funding to match the increased demand for its services. New data released by Jigsaw shows that anxiety, at 39%, was the most common mental health difficulty among young people using its service last year. This figure has increased by 7% in just three years.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Youth mental health services are under huge strain right across the State due to the recruitment and retention crisis affecting the health service and because of historical funding shortages.

“There are 2,700 children waiting to be seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), yet there are a staggering 13 vacant consultant posts and a shortage of psychiatric nurses.

“Tallaght has not escaped these pressures on youth mental health services and those attempting to access them are facing significant delays.

“Figures released by the HSE through a Parliamentary Question show there are significant and unacceptable waiting times for counselling appointments with Jigsaw, the mental health service which provides vital supports to young people in Tallaght.

“Demand for the Jigsaw service in Tallaght and across the State continues to grow, however, the provision of resources has not kept pace. As a result the waiting time is currently 13 weeks, way off the target waiting time of 4 working, and it is in fact the highest waiting time in the State.

“We are continually told by every expert in child and adolescent mental health that early intervention is absolutely vital in avoiding, enduring, and worsening problems in the future.  Yet, these figures reveal that if a child or young person seeks out care they are in all likelihood going to be faced with extended waiting periods. This is simply unacceptable and puts their mental health at very serious risk.”

Crowe continued:

“I am currently assisting one family that have been waiting over 4 years for an appointment in Chamber House Tallaght for a Cognitive Assessment Report for their 6 year old child, which they need to access services and supports. This is just another example of the pressures families and children with particular needs are being put under by a broken system and the lack of comprehensive mental health services.

“When CAMHS and Jigsaw are able to assess and care for young people they do an excellent job with often extremely good outcomes.

“Unfortunately this is often not possible because of shortages in funding, the neglect of the services by successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Governments, and the pervading recruitment and retention crisis in the health service.

“Children from the Tallaght Jigsaw catchment area should not be discriminated against in accessing mental health services because of their location or a shortage of key staff but that is what is happening currently.

“We now need to see funding increased in the next Budget to match the demand for the Jigsaw service in Tallaght and across the State. This can be literally lifesaving treatment and it is currently not readily available for many of those that really need it.”