AROUND one in eight consultant psychiatrist posts remain unfilled across Wales, according to a recent census carried out across the UK.
That represents 20 posts out a total of 157 across the four boards that responded.
In England the rate was 9.9% across NHS trusts, in Scottish boards it was 9.7% and in Northern Ireland services it was 7.5%.
The findings come at a time when there is a lack of old age psychiatrists due to the aging population.
In July 2019, 48.2% of old age psychiatry outpatients had to wait up to four weeks for treatment and a further 50.6% had been waiting between 4 and 26 weeks. Around 1.1% waited for over 26 weeks.
Mark Williams, 45, from Cardiff, suffered mental health problems in 2004 following his wife Michelle’s traumatic birth. His lowest point came when he was tasked with looking after his wife and his son Ethan when they got home from the hospital as Michelle was suffering from severe postnatal depression.
His world seemed to change forever as he struggled to cope with caring for his young family and suffering from depression, anxiety, excessive drinking and thoughts of self-harm.
Mark said: “At the age of 30 I had my first panic attack and it was terrifying. I did not know what was happening to me.”
While his mental health suffered, Mark felt like he couldn’t talk to anyone as he was raised in a working-class community where his father and grandfather had been coal miners. He had to go through several community mental health teams before he was eventually diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, and depression. He is now campaigning for Wales to have its first mother and baby unit and highlighting that men can suffer from postnatal depression too.
He said: “I have to say, after seeing many GPs and other medical staff, I was eventually referred to a psychiatrist and he was the best psychiatrist ever. He turned my life around and got me the treatment I needed. That is why I think the Choose Psychiatry campaign is so valuable.”
Kerean Watts, from Caerphilly county, also struggled to get the help he needed.
He knew something was wrong from the age of 13 and went to see his GP, but it was two years before he was diagnosed with autism and depression.
During that time, he experienced “persistently dark moods” and even considered a suicide attempt - he thought it might convince doctors his symptoms were serious.
"I didn't know if I'd have to do something as drastic as that to be taken seriously, to be listened to," he said.
It took nearly a year to be referred to a mental health NHS specialist and Kerean says the wait made his problems "much worse".
He said: "The waiting cost me a lot more than time. I had to grow up a lot quicker than I think I should have because for quite a long time, I had to deal with my mental health issues. I had to deal with them alone.
"It did take away from my youth, from my teenage years and my childhood."
Professor Keith Lloyd, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales said: “Wales has the highest rate of unfilled consultant psychiatrist posts in the UK nations, which is highlighted by the UK census.
“This impacts on waiting times and quality of care. There are some positives: we’re now filling the junior posts but there are issues with consultant posts.
“The job itself is fascinating and challenging and every day you’re helping someone recover their mental health.”
It takes thirteen years to train as a consultant psychiatrist, including five years in medical school.