Rise in mental health admissions


Involuntary admissions to mental health services rose last year, according to the Mental Health Commission.

The body's annual report shows there were 2,057 involuntary admissions to mental health services in 2011, compared to 1,952 for the preceding year and 2,024 in 2009.

Twenty involuntary admissions involved children, up from 13 admissions a year earlier

The commission was notified of 421 admissions of children to mental health centres in 2011, a 2.1 per cent decrease on the number of admissions reported in 2010.

Some 132 admissions of children were to adult units compared to 55 in the previous year.

The commission welcomed the investment in two new child and adolescent in-patient facilities in Cork and Galway,  which brings the number of child and adolescent units nationally to six with a combined capacity of 70 beds. In 2008, just 28 beds were available in child and adolescent units nationwide.

"The provision of specialised units for children has directly resulted in a decline in the number of admissions of children to adult units in 2011," said the commission's chairman Dr Edmund O'Dea.

"In 2007, 61.6 per cent of child admissions were made to adult units, while in 2011 just 31.4 per cent of child admissions were to adult units,” he added.

However, the commission said it remains concerned about the number of children being admitted to adult units and hoped to see a reduction in admissions this year.

A total of 1,771 of mental health tribunal hearings were held in 2011, the report showed. There have been 9,717 review hearings held since they were first introduced in 2007.

The annual report, which also included the Report of the Inspector of Mental Health Services, found that people who are experiencing mental health issues receive better quality services than five years ago.

The commission carried out a national survey of patients' experiences of inpatient mental health services and found 84.4 per cent of respondents stated that they were satisfied overall with the service received.

“Patients receiving inpatient treatment today are more actively involved in their care and treatment plans. The physical environments in which they are treated are, in most cases, improved. And those who are involuntarily detained, or deprived of their liberty, now have the right to have their detention order reviewed by a three person Mental Health Tribunal, " said Dr O'Dea.

Last year,  the Mental Health Commission imposed conditions to the registration of seven approved centres including St Brendan's and St Ita's in Dublin, St Finan's in Kerry, St Loman's in Westmeath, S. Senan's in Wexford and St Luke's and St Michael's in Tipperary.

Dr O'Dea welcome the ring-fencing of €35 million for the development of community services but said the reduction in staff numbers that has occurred in the mental health sector meant that the funding "may do little more than allow the services stand still".

The commission warned last year that mental health services are experiencing major staff shortages due to the moratorium on public sector recruitment. It said this was undermining efforts to reform how people with mental health illnesses are treated.

Dr O'Dea said that in general the mental health sector was starting to see the benefits of a cultural shift toward an approach that promotes the recovery of patients, rather than simply the management of patients, as being at the heart of mental health services.

“The concept of recovery is central to modern thinking and practice in the area of mental health and while we are seeing a shift in pockets around the country this has yet to permeate throughout the country,” he said.

“There is still a long way to go but understanding of the fundamental concept that mental health services should be geared towards the recovery of the patient has grown substantially. This is a step towards refocusing patient care, offering realistic hope to those with serious mental illness.”

The campaign group Mental Health Reform welcomed the report but also expressed concerns about staffing levels in the sector.

It also said that the €35 million funding commitment was in jeopardy unless a director for mental health was appointed as early as possible.