Dáil hears of child struggling with ‘mental health crisis’ and receiving no services

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald raises case of distraught girl Maggie in chamber, describing her mother as ‘desperate’

A 10-year-old girl who is in a “full-blown mental health crisis” and doesn’t leave the house apart from going to school is receiving no services, the Dáil has been told.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald raised the case of Maggie in the chamber on Tuesday, who she said had already “endured cancer” and described her mother as “desperate”.

“She [Maggie] now suffers from depression, anxiety and self-injurious behaviour,” said Ms McDonald.

“Maggie was on the urgent list for a year before she received a Camhs [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] meeting.


“She received an assessment for an intellectual disability, but she wasn’t accepted into [the] service because there’s no specialist in the area. Maggie is in a full-blown mental health crisis. She receives no care. She’s in distress, and she doesn’t leave the house apart from going to school.”

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Ms McDonald said the crisis in Camhs had escalated to a “full-blown emergency”.

“On the watch of this Government, waiting lists for first-time appointments have increased dramatically while the number of young people waiting more than a year has nearly trebled,” she said. “It’s virtually impossible to access services.”

The Sinn Féin leader was speaking as her party’s Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2023 was due to be debated later on Tuesday. The proposed legislation would give statutory powers to the Mental Health Commission to regulate Camhs so that recommendations of governance and clinical reforms made by the commission could be implemented by the State and Health Service Executive.

The Bill also seeks to allow the commission to monitor the implementation of any such recommendations and to publish a yearly report on the progress.

In response, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said he, as well as Government and Opposition TDs, were deeply familiar with challenges experienced by families and carers looking after children, teenagers and young adults experiencing mental health difficulties.

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Mr Donohoe said efforts made by the Government were not reaching Maggie but were reaching others. He said since August 2023, Camhs waiting lists had fallen, though not as much as the Government would want.

“We know more needs to be done,” he said.

The Fine Gael TD said in community Camhs teams, there had been an increase to 820 fully funded posts.

Mr Donohoe said the Government had also ensured that for the first time in the history of the State, there would be a national office for young mental health within the HSE.

The Dublin Central TD said the Government was putting forward a timed amendment to Sinn Féin’s Bill and would be bringing forward a further Mental Health Bill hopefully before the summer.

He said this would have 35 different sections, all focused on the regulation of mental health services.

“We believe this Bill, which will be brought forward shortly, will provide a different and more effective way to the regulation needs we accept are there,” he said.

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times