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Michelle McMillan 2009


Mental illness is having a significant impact on the worldwide population and current allocated resources are not able to cater for this increased need. There are disparities in service use between various groups within society, notably on the basis of ethnicity and socio-economic status. Children and youth also experience limitations in service access and availability. This group is further complicated by their reliance on adults to be their advocates, as well the dynamic interplay of developmental and educational needs. Research has illuminated barriers and enablers to children reaching appropriate speciality mental health services however despite such evidence, access to child and youth mental health services is an ongoing concern.

The current study explored the experiences of parents or caregivers, of children or youth that had gained access to the Child and Family Unit (CFU) in Christchurch, New Zealand. Participants (n=8) were purposefully selected from children and or youth who had previously gained admission. Qualitative analysis was used to encourage reflective narratives, identify key themes and elucidate barriers and enablers affecting access to speciality mental health care for children or youth.

The results identified that parents experience a difficult journey to gain access to the Child and Family Unit in Christchurch, New Zealand. Schools play a key role in identifying emotional and behaviour problems in children and youth however they have a minor role in the referral pathway to child and youth speciality mental health services. A revised referral pathway was designed in the view of developing a partnership between mental health care services and the education sector. This may improve the early detection, and timely referrals pathways to child and youth mental health specialist services.

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