Around 3 in 4 children with severe mental health disorder missing out on valuable support

Approximately three in every four children identified with a severe mental health disorder are missing out on access to child mental health specialists, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists estimates.

Speaking ahead of the Federal Government’s National Early Years Summit being held in Parliament House on Friday 17 February, RANZCP Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (FCAP) Committee Chair, Prof Valsa Eapen, said it is crucial the Federal Government work with mental health experts to ensure the gaps in funding, availability and access to professional mental health services for children and their families are addressed immediately.

‘We estimate that of the 80,000 children with a severe mental health disorder, just 22,000 of them are currently being seen by a psychiatrist‘, Prof Valsa Eapen said.

‘Too many children in need of professional mental health support are missing out and that includes preschool children and parents or care givers supporting them. The pandemic has made an already bad situation worse and our children can’t wait. The time is right now to act‘.

Prof Valsa Eapen said the Federal Government’s National Early Years Strategy and Summit provides an opportunity to ensure a coherent roadmap with an actionable implementation plan is developed to support children in the first five years of life.

‘Most adult mental health problems have their origins in childhood and adolescence, with children affected by parental mental illness being at particularly high risk. Early psychiatric intervention is crucial for vulnerable children‘.

‘The evidence around the importance of the first 2000 days of a child’s life is clear. We need a national plan in place that is responsive, integrated, sustainable and equitable to ensure we’re supporting kids in the first five years of life to be safe, healthy and ready to thrive‘.

Prof Valsa Eapen said that in addition to a cohesive plan, there needs to be an increase in mental health funding to support kids and their families in need.

‘Funding for mental health services needs to be increased to at least 14 per cent of total health expenditure, and at least 15 per cent of that funding needs to be directed to child and adolescent mental health services, particularly 0-5 years, so that we’re reaching our children when they need us most‘.

Talent available for comment

Professor Valsa Eapen, Chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (FCAP) Committee is available for comment. Prof Valsa is a leading expert on child and adolescent psychiatry and will be attending the National Early Years Summit.

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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or

In Aotearoa New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, 1737 is here to help, for free - Mental Health. You can also contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or  


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