An article in today's Courier Mail highlights the suicide rate for children in Queensland - a child aged between 10 and 14 is dying from suicide every four and a half weeks, double the number recorded last year.
Queensland Family and Child Commission chief executive Luke Twyford said the fact suicide was the leading cause of death for those age groups was “incredibly concerning”.
Mr Twyford said young people were struggling with their mental health.
AAPi member and Toowoomba psychologist Beris Ludwig is quoted in the article, saying she had been seeing more children presenting with anxiety at a younger age.
“I’ve seen an exponential increase in referrals and self-referrals for children, and there is a shortage of psychologists available to work with children,” Dr Ludwig said.
The article claims Queensland Health could not specify public wait times for psychologists because wait times varied based on where patients presented and how they were triaged.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Queensland Chair Dr Bruce Willett said many doctors had given up referring young patients to the public system due to long waits, despite the costs for private.
“I don’t think there’s any GP or many GPs around who even try to get their patients psychologist appointments in the public system, we try to do it through the private system,” Dr Willett said.
“Essentially the public services are really for hyper acute and crisis situations so they will see patients generally between one and three times, and they will discharge them to see a GP and our job is to find a private psychologist for them. The problem is that not all patients can afford (private psychologists).”
Dr Ludwig said there is a national shortage in psychologists with other qualifications such as a Masters in Developmental or Educational Psychology, who could help treat children.
To meet demand from child patients, Dr Ludwig brought two provisional psychologists into the Toowoomba clinic.
“As a result, most new and existing children who come to us can get in for sessions. But because they are provisional psychologists, there is no Medicare rebate, and some families simply can’t afford it,” she said.
"The Medicare rebate covers 10 psychologist sessions per year. However, doctors believe severe patients contemplating suicide would likely require 20 or more sessions per year," the article reads.
"The Courier-Mail understands in the Queensland private system, the families of child patients can be billed at least $2500 in out-of-pocket costs for 20 sessions annually."
Read the full article here.