Mental health help breakdown

THE Mental Health Unit at Grafton Base Hospital has turned its back on an 11-year-old boy who has thoughts of killing himself.

The mother of the boy, who has asked to remain nameless, contacted the unit after her son’s mental health deteriorated.

The boy had been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, but by early August had become depressed and compiled a list of ways to kill himself. He took a low dose of a well-known anti-depressant to treat the problem.

On August 24, the boy disclosed these feelings to his father and next day the family contacted Dr Chris Wever, who agreed the child was depressed and increased his dosage of the anti-depressant. He said the boy would also need to see a psychiatrist regularly, but it was not viable to travel 3.5 hours each way to see him.

The child’s family has a history of suicidal behaviour through three generations and research has shown there is a genetic tendency toward suicide.

The mother phoned the Grafton Mental Health Unit and during the conversation a social worker in the unit said the boy should see a child psychiatrist.

But he would not be eligible to see a psychiatrist, who flies up from Sydney once a fortnight to work with the Youth and Family Team, because the minimum age of his patients is 12 years. Her son is 11 years and three months old.

The social worker said he should see someone from the Child and Family Team at Grafton Community Health, but all the positions on that team were vacant.

“Because of nine months my son cannot access the Youth and Family Mental Health Team, and because all the positions are vacant on the Child and Family Team at Grafton Community Health, my son cannot receive any service,” the woman said.

She has sent copies of a letter outlining her problems to a number of Federal and State politicians, as well as mental health figures including Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry.

She has already received a reply this week from the NSW Governor Marie Bashir, who said her son could receive the help he needs in Sydney.

A spokesperson for the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) apologised for any distress caused to the family regarding the treatment of their son.

“The NCAHS has endeavoured to contact the family to offer its support and determine their son’s ongoing health needs,” the spokesperson said.

“The Child and Adolescent Health Unit will discuss the services that the family might require into the future.

“Recruitment for the child and family positions is well advanced, with a series of interviews already conducted.”

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