Record numbers of gender-distressed children seek help
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.”