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Minors should not be placed in psychiatric units with adults – Neville

26th June 2014 - Aoife Carragher

Fine Gael TD for Limerick, Fine Gael Party Chairperson and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville TD, has today (Thursday), said that it is unacceptable that minors should be placed in psychiatric units with adults.

“We must be concerned at the high number of children being admitted to adult psychiatric units.   In 2013, there were 91 admissions of minors to adult units, including 83 children. Significant concern has been expressed by psychiatrists, psychotherapists and general mental health services staff about the unsuitability of minors sharing in-patient psychiatric care with adults. Indeed it is seen as being potentially detrimental to the recovery of the minor.  

“Having children, some under ten years of age, in the same ward as people aged 30 to 90 years of age is deemed by all mental health professionals to be totally unsuitable and detrimental to their recovery.  

“A Vision for Change, the policy document for mental health services which was published in 2006, included the recommendations that mental health in-patient services for children up to the age of 18 years should be provided only in dedicated child and adolescent psychiatric in-patient units.

“The HSE has failed to meet the code of practice relating to the admission of children under the Mental Health Act 2001, as drawn up by the Mental Health Commission.   The code of practice specified that from July 2009, no child under the age of 16 should be admitted to an adult in-patient unit, from December 2010 no child under 17 years, and from 2011 no child under the age of 18.

“Unfortunately we are not meeting these targets. I have heard reports of the admission of minors, some of them children under the age of ten, to adult mental institutions. Those children are in serious need of in-patient care.   We do not want people going to mental health institutions and units, but on occasion it is absolutely necessary.   These are acutely ill people in need of maximum treatment to lead them to recovery.

“I recognise that the Government has allocated considerable funding to mental health services and that progress has been made.   However, I question how effectively the HSE in spending this money has obtained maximum improvements to services.   We need to establish an emergency mental health service, especially at weekends, when 23% of admissions take place.”

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