There is an indefinite waiting list for children to get a mental health diagnosis since only one warranted child psychologist is available in the public health sector, the Maltese Association of Psychiatry has warned.

Presenting a snapshot of the mental health staff in the public healthcare system, the association's president Nigel Camilleri warned severe under-staffing made for a mental health crisis.

Based on international recommendations, Malta requires between 45 to 60 psychiatrists for adults and nine psychiatrists working with children and adolescents.

Currently, there are no full-time child and adolescent psychiatrists in Malta, while there were 15 consultant general psychiatrists and 10 qualified resident specialists in the National Healthcare system.

According to World Health Organisation recommendations, there should be around 13 psychologists per 100,000 people in the public health sector. Malta has just four psychologists per 100,000 people, Dr Camilleri said.

The situation also meant those working in mental health were suffering from severe burnout, he warned. If all psychiatrists last year had to work full-time they would have seen 3,750 cases a year, he added.

“We’ve seen a rise in resignations,” Dr Camilleri warned. There were also no full-time psychiatrists working in the community, he added.

There is a lacuna in mental health - the quality of data on mental health collection is poor, with no clear indicator of how many people suffer from mental health in Malta, he warned.

“We can only assume that one in four suffers from mental health since those are the global statistics,” Dr Camilleri said.

The Psychiatrists’ Association is now calling for the main focus to be on community mental health services. “This would reduce the workload on psychologists, by keeping help within the community,” Dr Camilleri said.

While a new hospital for mental health was welcomed, there needed to be a shift to offer better services and more staffing, he added.

While improving ceilings at Mount Carmel could be “sexy” in the media, urgent improvements were needed in the mental health sector, the association warned.

Figures for those working in child and adolescent mental health services

  Malta Recommended for Malta
Psychotherapists 0 3
Nurses  4 18
Consultant psychologist 0 2
Occupational therapists 1 9
Child psychiatrists 0.8 8
Social workers 1.5 18

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