Child men­tal health pro­gram to ex­pand

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - RE­BECCA BAKER

A LAND­MARK pro­gram that al­lows South Aus­tralian par­ents and their young chil­dren 24-hour ac­cess to qual­i­fied child psy­chol­o­gists is to be ex­panded in­ter­state.

Ade­laide-based clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Kir­rilie Smout, whose De­vel­op­ing Minds prac­tice at Wayville spe­cialises in work­ing with chil­dren and teens, says with one in seven Aus­tralian chil­dren di­ag­nosed with a men­tal dis­or­der, it’s vi­tal fam­i­lies have sup­port read­ily avail­able.

“Ten years ago, our psy­chol­ogy clinic had a twoweek wait­ing list; to­day, on av­er­age, it’s three to five months,” she said.

“This is crazy, as child men­tal health prob­lems are linked to ado­les­cent men­tal health prob­lems, which are linked to adult men­tal health prob­lems.

“We need to in­ter­vene ear­lier as hav­ing a six­month wait to see a child psy­chol­o­gist isn’t work­able.

“There are a lot of on­line e-men­tal health pro­grams for teens in Aus­tralia, such as eheadspace and, but very few fo­cus on pri­mary-aged chil­dren.”

Ms Smout said only 14 per cent of chil­dren who had a psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­or­der vis­ited a clinic.

“My feel­ing in talk­ing to par­ents at our clinic, and we see over 160 fam­i­lies here ev­ery week, is that so many par­ents find it tough to get their kids to ther­apy – and, more and more, they’re look­ing for other op­tions,” she said.

In re­sponse, Ms Smout has cre­ated Calm Kid Cen­tral, an on­line site on which par­ents and car­ers can ask un­lim­ited ques­tions of child psy­chol­o­gists and get an­swers within 48 hours.

The sub­scrip­tion site also has videos to help chil­dren cope with worry, so­cial prob­lems and frus­tra­tion, as well as a se­ries of work sheets for fam­i­lies.

Ini­tially aimed at fam­i­lies across SA, it is now be­ing of­fered in Vic­to­ria as part of a Gov­ern­ment-funded trial.

“My fo­cus is on giv­ing kids a whole new way of get­ting psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port rather than be­ing stuck in our old ways of ‘Come to the clinic and see a psy­chol­o­gist for an hour’ model.

This is our way of pro­vid­ing on­line ac­cess to a child psy­chol­o­gist within 48 hours, plus it can teach pri­mary-aged kids with big feel­ings to man­age emo­tions,” she said.

For Ms Smout, “big feel­ings” cover a wide range of a young­sters’ emo­tions and be­hav­iours, from wor­ry­ing or feel­ing anx­ious, to be­ing eas­ily frus­trated or find­ing it tough to make and keep friends.

Ms Smout said a re­cent six-month anal­y­sis of more than 80 fam­i­lies, who used the on­line site over a four­month pe­riod. showed 97 per cent found it use­ful.

“We are now tak­ing on about one new fam­ily ev­ery week (some pay pri­vately, some are funded by the Gov­ern­ment),” she said.

“Par­ents re­ported chil­dren ex­pe­ri­enced a sig­nif­i­cant drop in things such as anx­i­ety, de­fi­ance, frus­tra­tion and at­ten­tion prob­lems. “In ad­di­tion, on av­er­age, par­ents re­ported a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in parental ad­just­ment and well­be­ing.”

Last month, Calm Kid Cen­tral was recog­nised at the an­nual Ade­laide PHN Pri­mary Health Care Awards, win­ning the Out­stand­ing Health Pro­mo­tion Pro­gram gong.

Ms Smout said the trend to on­line should not take away the im­por­tance of face-to-face treat­ment, and for many, on­line treat­ment was not the best op­tion.

SUP­PORT: One in seven chil­dren is di­ag­nosed with a men­tal dis­or­der. Be­low, Kir­rilie Smout.

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