A Canberra mother has labelled ACT's youth mental health services as "woefully lacking", saying she was forced to travel to regional NSW to find a psychiatrist to treat her child.
Rachael, who asked to only be referred to by her first name, said another one of her children had been turned away from Canberra Hospital after waiting for hours for urgent mental health treatment.
Appearing before an ACT Parliamentary inquiry into youth mental health, Rachael said she was unable to find a female psychiatrist with open bookings to see her child.
She eventually found one who was located in Bowral.
"I could understand the reverse, I could understand living in Bowral and having to come to Canberra, but I really struggle with having to go to a regional area to get the help we desperately needed," Rachael said.
"It's just overwhelming for parents like myself who are trying to advocate for children and keep them alive ... and there doesn't seem to be the resources available."
Rachael said she also tried to get her child into Headspace in Canberra but was told they were not taking new referrals.
Another one of her children has severe clinical depression and self harms, she told the inquiry.
The child was recently taken to Canberra Hospital - after first being turned away from Calvary where no mental health team was on duty - by ambulance.
Rachael said after waiting five hours they were told there was no chance of seeing a mental health practitioner and they were better off going home.
"In dealing with mental health services in the ACT for young people in the four years that I have lived here, I have found it woefully lacking and grossly underfunded," she said.
"I naively assumed that the capital city would have far greater resources than it does. Parents like us are falling through the cracks, and all we want to do is keep our kids alive.
"I see that one of the terms of reference of the inquiry is the availability of after hours support, in our experience it is non existent and we have nowhere to turn in a crisis."
The inquiry also heard there was a lack of service continuation for young Canberrans seeking mental when they turn 18.
"At this time in their lives, young people have finished secondary school and may be entering into further education, commencing employment or moving out of their family homes," executive director of Youth Coalition of the ACT Justin Barker said.
"They are becoming increasingly independent, with less access to the formal structural supports available through school."
Dr Barker said young people attending university in the ACT had found there were not enough campus-based mental health supports to assist students experiencing stress, anxiety and depression.
"Some of these students may be living out of home for the first time, and/or struggling to cope with the transition into tertiary education," he said.
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