Thousands of children in need of psychiatric care - ombudsman

Pawlak said that one in two Polish teenagers has experienced peer bullying, one in six has attempted self-mutilation and as many as 7 percent admitted to attempting suicide. Andrzej Rybczyński/PAP

Hundreds of thousands of young people in urgent need of psychiatric care are facing a “pandemic-driven crisis in child psychiatry” that could lead to “multiple tragedies”.

In a letter to Health Minister Adam Niedzielski, Mikołaj Pawlak, the children ombudsman, said over 600,000 young people in Poland were currently in need of psychiatric assistance but had to wait many months for consultations because of the Covid crisis.

"We must take urgent steps because the pandemic-driven crisis in child psychiatry may lead to multiple tragedies," Pawlak wrote.

Pawlak said that one in two Polish teenagers has experienced peer bullying, one in six has attempted self-mutilation and as many as 7 percent admitted to attempting suicide.

In a similar letter to Marlena Maląg, the family and social policy minister, Pawlak stressed the urgency of ensuring prompt psychological and psychiatric care for young people.

"It is the duty of us all to ensure that children in Poland can receive help in resolving their problems as promptly as possible," he wrote.

He added that the family environment was crucial for the psychological well-being of young people, and said that government support for families was vital.

Pawlak also suggested that the psychiatric care system should be better funded and staffed, and more support provided to social aid and crisis intervention networks.