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Do growing mental problems among children and young people have adequate protection from medical facilities? This question is answered by the NIK report, which clearly shows that the availability of psychiatric treatment services for all young people in Poland is not sufficient. The number of outpatient clinics providing services in this area is also decreasing.
Need for comprehensive services according to NIK
The audit of the NIK showed that the system of psychiatric treatment for children and adolescents needs to be changed, as it does not provide comprehensive and universally accessible healthcare in this area. The main problems identified by the NIK are the uneven distribution of medical staff and hospital psychiatric wards and outpatient clinics for minors. The NIK report also shows that in five voivodeships there was no day-care unit, and in Podlaskie Voivodeship there was no 24-hour unit. It happened that underage patients were placed in adult wards.
The number of entities providing outpatient psychiatric services to minors also decreased, and at the same time the access to them depended on their place of residence. The most difficult access to these services was for residents of small towns and villages. As of 19 July 2019, 171 providers provided outpatient psychiatric services for children and adolescents, 13 fewer than in 2018. However, NIK points out, above all, the lack of prevention of mental disorders, which should be provided by the community treatment model, which is the most effective form of psychiatric care for this population.
Child and adolescent psychiatric treatment system and growing mental health problems
According to NIK, mental health problems are growing and are the result of many factors. These include aspects such as globalisation, changes in socio-economic conditions, difficulties in adolescence, problems in family life (divorce or family breakdown), and the relationship between parents and their child, the limitation of which can cause loneliness and self-destructive behaviour. As explained, in Poland, 9% of children and adolescents under 18 years of age, i.e. approximately 630,000, require the help of the psychiatric and psychological treatment system. In this respect, we are no different from other countries, where around 10% of the population of children and young people require assistance from specialists.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the state of social isolation have caused mental problems to appear or develop. These are mainly diseases such as anxiety, depression and sleep problems. Therefore, this problem is extremely important in the current situation. The NIK notes that the Minister for Health has prepared a three-stage model of psychiatric care based on community care, but the implementation of new solutions began after the NIK audit was completed, so its effectiveness was not assessed.