Record num­bers of gen­der-dis­tressed chil­dren seek help

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - RE­BECCA DIGIROLAMO

A RECORD num­ber of trans­gen­der chil­dren and teens are seek­ing med­i­cal help, with up to 180 new gen­der dys­pho­ria cases ex­pected to be re­ferred to the Ade­laide Women’s and Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal by the end of this year.

The grow­ing list of new re­fer­rals is in ad­di­tion to the 200 cur­rent cases statewide in­volv­ing chil­dren aged four to 17.

This com­pares to a hand­ful of re­fer­rals per year to the WCH about five years ago, Child and Ado­les­cent Men­tal Health Ser­vices clin­i­cal di­rec­tor Dr Prue McEvoy said.

She said new pa­tients would have an av­er­age wait of nine months to ac­cess psy­chi­atric as­sess­ment at the WCH un­der ex­ist­ing ar­range­ments.

“These re­fer­rals are now be­ing triaged to en­sure more ur­gent sit­u­a­tions are ad­dressed more quickly and the psy­chi­a­trists and pae­di­a­tri­cians work col­lab­o­ra­tively to en­sure that de­ci­sions about treat­ment can be made in an ap­pro­pri­ate time frame,” she said.

“We think the need is go­ing to con­tinue to in­crease and we are re­view­ing our pro­cesses.”

The WCH is the only SA pub­lic health provider with a small team of child and ado­les­cent psy­chi­a­trists and pae­di­a­tri­cians treat­ing gen­der dys­pho­ria one day a week.

Gen­der dys­pho­ria is the dis­tress felt by peo­ple whose gen­der iden­tity is dif­fer­ent from their gen­der as­signed at birth.

Ade­laide mum Ash said her teenage trans­gen­der son strug­gled with pu­berty while wait­ing for treat­ment last year.

“In that whole pe­riod he was sui­ci­dal and talked about hurt­ing him­self to re­move his breasts,” Ash said.

Par­ents of Gen­der Di­verse Chil­dren SA said the WCH was ded­i­cated to trans­gen­der chil­dren and had been work­ing to im­prove ac­cess.

“The psy­cho­log­i­cal health of trans­gen­der chil­dren dur­ing that time is crit­i­cal,” a PGDC spokes­woman said.

“They are re­ally suf­fer­ing, but when they are sup­ported and af­firmed, their men­tal health sig­nif­i­cantly im­proves.”

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