The number of children needing mental health services has gone up in Helsinki during the first part of the year.
The number of referrals had gone up by almost a third. In 2013, doctors gave 600 referrals to children’s psychiatric care, up by 15 per cent from the year before. Compared with 2009, the number of referrals is up by 60 per cent.
In contrast, in the neighbouring Espoo and Vantaa, the number of referrals at the beginning of 2014 had remained at the level of previous years.
The need for adolescent mental health services has not increased in Helsinki, with the number of referrals remaining at 700.
Despite the growing demand for children’s services, the mental health care services have been able to meet the six-week deadline for treatment in most cases.
Launched in October, a new unit for the initial assessment and emergency treatment of patients has considerably speeded up the process. According to reports by the city, mental health services contacted the patient by phone on the same day they received the referral or the following day at the latest.
Queuing times for treatment have remained tolerable, partly because the focus has shifted from treatment given on a ward to out-patient care.
While in 2007, children from Helsinki spent altogether almost 11,000 days in a psychiatric ward, the number of treatment days had gone down to around 4,000 last year.
The duration of treatment both in in-patient and out-patient services has shortened.
The City of Helsinki is trying to intervene in children’s mental health problems early on through speech and occupational therapy, assistance at home for families with small children and supervised afternoon activities.
In addition, the city is offering more out-patient care in a home environment for children who previously would have received treatment in a psychiatric ward.
The social and health authorities in Helsinki believe that supporting a child’s development in familiar surroundings is often more effective than treatment in a care unit.
Päivi Punkka – HS
Niina Woolley – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Image: Kimmo Mäntylä / Lehtikuva