Polish child psychiatry is still in decline. After the reform of the Ministry of Health, a lot has changed, but still not enough to make the problems disappear or become smaller. Many specialists are still missing and hospital wards are overcrowded. The data of the Empowering Children Foundation and the police are also alarming.
When the former Minister of Health, Adam Niedzielski, started to introduce a reform of child psychiatry two years ago, there were many promises and assurances. – Mental illnesses are becoming one of the main problems, as we can see from the increase in patients – said Niedzielski in October 2022.
After the reform, much has changed for the better, which is emphasized by the specialists themselves, but at the same time they add that there is still much to be done. “In principle, I think there was a lot of sensible thinking there,” says Dr. Bartłomiej Taurogiński, a child psychiatrist and psychotherapist at the University Hospital in Krakow. – This is an excellent step forward, but only a step – points out Dr. Beata Rajba, psychologist, University of Lower Silesia DSW.
The reform introduced, among other things, the so-called three levels of reference of psychological and psychiatric help centers for children. Access to basic therapeutic care has increased, and ultimately – in 2027 – a psychologist’s or therapist’s office is to be in every commune.
– The latest data (shows that – editor’s note) 450 communes in July did not have a school psychologist in Poland. The bottleneck is the second level, i.e. mental health centres, Rajba points out. – The situation is such that there is certainly a shortage of staff who are ready to help young people. The situation is such that we have more and more children requiring specialist care – adds Taurogiński.
There are no beds in hospitals
Practically all over the country, there is a lack of places in clinics, despite their increased availability. The number of patients in hospital wards is also increasing. – During the pandemic, 50 percent more children who needed psychiatric care alone entered the system, in addition, there are still (children – editor’s note) who need a psychologist – Rajba points out.
There is also a shortage of specialists. There are just over 500 child psychiatrists nationwide. – In practice, they go to private health care. It is hardly surprising, because the earnings are what they are, the work is also hard, the branches are overcrowded. The occupancy rate is, for example, 150 percent all the time, Rajba points out. – Our patients are often depressed, withdrawn, after suicide attempts. It is often difficult for them to talk about their emotions, about what hurts them – adds Dr. Małgorzata Wyrębska-Rozpara, head of the Department of Psychology and Youth in Szczecin.
The fact that the mental state of Polish children and youth is very bad is evidenced, among others, by the statistics of the helpline of the Empowering Children Foundation. – Last year, we carried out 885 interventions that saved the lives or health of children. It was a record number since the start of operation of the hotline – informs Monika Kamińska from the Empowering Children Foundation. So for 15 years, and only in the first half of this year, there were almost 500 life and health-saving interventions.
– Children in these conversations talk about the fact that they cannot cope with stress, that they feel permanent fear, anxiety, that they do not see the meaning of life – says Kamińska.
Where to look for help?
Police statistics are also alarming. – Last year, two thousand children tried to take their own lives, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, because it is believed that there are 8 to 10 times more attempts, but they are not included in the official statistics, because no one cares about them does not find out. This year, only in January, there were 856 children, which is almost half of what last year – points out Dr. Beata Rajba.
– These data, these numbers show that we are really in a huge crisis – emphasizes Kamińska.
Hospital children’s wards are still bursting at the seams and often overcrowded. It often takes months to get help from public health professionals. Like a bed in a ward. However, specialists admit one thing jointly – if not for the reform of psychiatry of children and adolescents, the crisis would be even more serious.
– Children suffer the hardships of adults. Children suffer the hardships of the system that we all co-create. I mean the system, how our culture is organized around emotions, how our culture is organized towards reaching out for help – assesses the doctor. Bartholomew Tauroginski.
If you experience emotional problems or mental difficulties, reach for professional psychiatric, psychological or psychotherapeutic help. Here you will find free, professional help for children and adults. In a life-threatening situation, always call 997 or 112.
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