Children ‘still being admitted’ to adult psychiatric facilities

Mental Health Commission says Government pledge to end practice has not been met

Mental health activists  launch their campaign for mental health funding in the budget outside Leinster House on Tuesday. Photograph: Conor McCabe

Mental health activists launch their campaign for mental health funding in the budget outside Leinster House on Tuesday. Photograph: Conor McCabe

 

The Government has not delivered on promises to stop admitting children to adult psychiatric facilities, according to an umbrella group for mental health NGOs.

Despite recommendations from the Mental Health Commission four years ago to end the practice as soon as possible, a recent report by the same body found one in five minors being treated for psychiatric conditions are still being entered into adult units.

Speaking at the launch of the Mental Health Reform’s pre-budget campaign; which calls for the allocation of an extra €35 million for community mental health services next year, director Dr Shari McDaid said it was a concern that the Government’s pre-election pledged from 2011 remains unfulfilled.

“It is a concern that they haven’t been able to deliver on the commitment that children aren’t inappropriately placed on adult wards,” she said.

“They should be in age-appropriate care… that should be sorted out as a matter of urgency. It’s not acceptable that we’re still facing that situation this year.”

Although staffing levels in the mental health sector have increased marginally since 2011, they remain 22 per cent below the commission’s recommended guidelines which is putting pressure on services.

“I think the [budget] allocations are there, but the problem is they haven’t been able to recruit the staff in the posts. If you have a budget but you can’t spend it, it doesn’t really materialise into services,” said Dr McDaid.

She also wants to see funding provided for a national stigma reduction campaign in relation to mental health issues, along with the restoration of the Back to Work Allowance to support people with mental health disabilities who are seeking to re-enter employment.

According to statements released by the organisation, which represents over 50 groups working in the sector nationwide, some service users have considered self-harming as a means to expedite their treatment in hospital emergency departments.

“A&E was a horrible experience. I’m bipolar and I’ve had to go to A&E at times when I’ve been on a high and it has taken [up to] 11 hours to be seen,” said one anonymous individual.

“I did actually think after the last time that if I had slit my wrists I would’ve been seen quickly because I had a physical injury.”