They say a society is to be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.If this is the case then Ireland as a society and its Government can collectively hang its head in shame. I can not think of a group as vulnerable as children who suffer from a mental illness. The fact of the minors young susceptible age , the severity and the suffering of the condition makes children who suffer from a mental illness one of the most vulnerable groups in our society .
There were 106 children admitted last year to adult mental health units, a quarter of all child admissions , a number that is far too high. The Mental Health Commission revealed during the year. The HSE pointed out that 24 were then transferred on to youth services.
Putting children who suffer from a mental illness into an adult psychiatric unit is to be condemned . There are reasons for this . Children who suffer from a mental illness are at greater risk in an adult psychiatric unit than if put in a children’s psychiatric unit .Children are more likely to receive more appropriate care in a children’s psychiatric unit. Children who are put in to an adult psychiatric unit may see incidents happen that no child should ever have to see.
It must be remembered in adult psychiatric units, adult patients are unwell and this can lead to violence , self harm and scenes of mayhem in adult psychiatric wards on occasions . In general in my experience with adult psychiatric units are that they are usually quiet tranquil places. But as I once heard a nurse say “when it kicks off ” it can be mayhem. Depending on the psychiatric hospitals standards it is not unusual to occasionally find blood , urine or faeces on the hospital floors and scenes of violence.
It is totally inappropriate and scandalous to put children who suffer from a mental illness into these conditions . In my opinion the Government is violating a child’s human rights by leaving a child open to the risks of violence by staying in an adult psychiatric unit . The country’s mental health care system is failing young people.Figures show one in 10 young people will experience mental health difficulties severe enough to require specialist care . Under the HSE’s system children could wait for up to a year for specialised treatment.Figures show there were 2,056 young people waiting to be seen at the end of September – with 160 waiting between nine to 12 months.In the 12 months to last September, there had been a 10pc surge in new cases, with 8,671 lodged with the youth mental health teams. Around 45pc were seen within one month of referral, while 5pc had to wait over a year.
The Government blame the recession for being unable to appropriately fund child and adolescent psychiatric care .But even in the Celtic Tiger era, investment in young people’s mental health services was totally inadequate. Children who suffer from mental illness don’t have their own voice and don’t have a vote. They depend on the great work by children’s charities and mental health advocacy groups to protect them .They should be able to depend on the Government to protect them but alas this is not the case.
Ireland needs one major specialist children’s psychiatric hospital where all the children who suffer from a mental illness around Ireland can go .It should be a child patient only hospital with first class mental health care and facilities. It is unacceptable and shameful in this day and age ,in this modern society for children to be admitted to adult psychiatric units . The Government is failing the children of Ireland.
Here are some shocking figures from the Fourth Annual Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service Report 2011 – 2012 . In 2011 , 31% of the children admitted were put into adult units and in the nine months January to September 2012 , 25% of the children admitted were put in to adult units.
Fourth Annual Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service Report 2011 – 2012 :
In 2011 there were 432 admissions of children and adolescents up to the age of 18 years to inpatient units. Females
accounted for 56% of admissions. Forty-one percent of all admissions were aged 17 years on admission, 27% were
aged 16 years, 15% were aged 15 years and 17% were aged 14 years or younger. Of the 432 admissions, 300 (69%)
were to child and adolescent units and 132 (31%) to adult inpatient units. Seven admissions of young people aged
less than 16 years were to adult units.
The average length of stay was significantly longer in the child and adolescent units, at 48.34 days (median 39 days),
than in adult units at 9.9 days (median 5 days). Twenty-five percent of admissions to adult units were discharged
within two days of admission and 64% within one week. Sixty percent of admissions to child and adolescent units
were for periods longer than 4 weeks.
In the nine months January to September 2012, 228 (75%) of the 303 admissions of children under the age of 18
years were to child and adolescent units and the remaining 75 (25%) to adult units. Of the admissions to adult units;
50 (67%) were 17 years of age, 21 (28%) were 16 years of age and 4 (5%) were 15 years of age. Fifteen (20%) of the
adolescents admitted to the adult inpatient units were subsequently transferred to Merlin Park, St. Joseph’s and Eist
For the period from 1 January to 31 December 2011, the National Registry of Deliberate Self Harm recorded 1,076
deliberate self harm presentations to hospital that were made by 904 children (316 boys and 588 girls) aged from 10
to 17 years which represented 9% of all cases.
Of the recorded presentations for all children aged from 10 to 17 years in 2011, 35% were made by boys and 65%
were made by girls.
Fourth Annual Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service Report 2011 – 2012 : http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/Publications/services/Mentalhealth/camhs20112012annualreport.pdf
State of the Nation’s Children Ireland 2012 :http://www.dcya.gov.ie/documents/research/StateoftheNationsChildren2012.pdf
“Report on mental health of our young people is a wake-up call” : Irish Independent 11 OCTOBER 2013