'Worrying' waits for youth mental health services in Wales
More than 1,000 young people out of 18,000 referred to mental health services this year waited more than six months for a first appointment, a children's charity has said.
People referred for assessment by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) should be seen within 28 days.
NSPCC Cymru said it was a worrying picture.
The Welsh Government said there had been a 44% decrease in people having to wait for six months, compared to 2015.
Des Mannion, the head of service for NSPCC Cymru, said that, while some improvements had been made, it was clear there were still problems.
"These figures lay bare the true scale of delays in accessing mental health services for children and it's a worrying picture," he said.
"It does seem pretty shocking that we're having some young people waiting for more than six months for their first appointment. That can't be good.
"Investment in these sort of services for children and young people is actually money that's well spent both in terms of outcomes for them but also in terms of preventing them needing further intervention support in their adult lives."
Another charity has also expressed concern about the delays.
Changing Minds is a project run by Newport Mind for 14-25 year olds in Newport. It works on early intervention strategies for these young people but said the delays had increased pressure on services.
Project manager Jules Twells said: "I think because CAMHS is struggling with the resources it has, what tends to happen is that when people are on their waiting list, they need additional support so we're getting the referrals that CAMHS and primary mental health care should be dealing with.
"It's putting a strain on our referral mechanisms because we can't support the early intervention because we're dealing with the treatment of mental health issues."
Abi Larcombe, 17, has suffered with mental health issues since she was about 11.
She only received support from mental health services after she tried to take her own life.
"I knew I needed help but I was refusing to acknowledge that there was an issue. I didn't want to accept the fact I was ill," she said.
Aneurin Bevan health board said: "We have had a backlog of cases due to us having experienced a shortfall of clinical staff available to undertake first assessments.
"However, since 2015-16 we have addressed this issue with the provision of additional clinical sessions and a successful recruitment programme which occurred as a result of additional investment by the Welsh Government."
Betsi Cadwaladr health board said its team had seen an increase in demand but it expected to meet its target of seeing 80% of first referrals within 28 days by the end of January.
Powys Teaching health board said that no-one had waited for more than six months since October 2015.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Statistics show that in the 12 months to October 2016 there has been an increase of 16% in the number of referrals to CAMHS, compared with the previous 12-month period.
"Comparing the data from October 2015 with October 2016, there has been a 31% decrease in those waiting over four weeks and a 44% decrease in those waiting over 26 weeks."