Action needed to ensure children are no longer forced to receive care for mental ill-health in adult units

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal and Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, Alan Farrell has voiced his concern at the significant increase in the number of children admitted to adult mental health units since last year, as outlined in the Mental Health Commission’s 2017 Annual Report.

“In 2017 there were 82 admissions of minors to 21 adult mental health units. This compares with 69 in 2016, down from a high of 247 such admissions in 2008.

“The Mental Health Commission’s Report stated that “The most common reason reported for the admission of a child to an adult unit was an immediate risk to self or others combined with the unavailability of a bed in a child unit.”

“While I understand that, in some cases, a child may be admitted to an adult unit given that a clinician has decided such a course of action is in the best interest of the patient, the fact remains that any child having to be admitted to an adult unit due to the unavailability of a bed in a child unit is certainly cause for concern and cannot be deemed acceptable.

“I note the very significant body of work undertaken by my Fine Gael colleague, the Minister with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly TD, and others. I also note the very significant increase of 21% in referrals since 2012.

“We have a responsibility as a State to ensure that every individual who is facing mental health difficulties receives the care and treatment they require and deserve in an appropriate environment.

“I believe the appropriate environment for children and young people to receive such treatment is in a unit which caters specifically for minors.

“For many years in this country, we have worked to tackle the stigma which has been associated with mental ill-health. However, to adequately and comprehensively tackle any stigma which remains, we must work to ensure mental ill-health is treated, where necessary, in appropriate medical units, which form an integral part of our health system.

“Ensuring children can receive whatever medical treatment necessary among their peers, in a unit dedicated to minors, and not in adult units, must be a priority for Government, particularly when it comes to mental health.

“Furthermore, more must be done to tackle other issues facing the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), as outlined in the Mental Health Commission’s Annual Report. It is vital that action is taken to ensure emergency beds in appropriate services are more readily available, and that those who work in CAMHS are provided supports to access emergency beds for patients as and when required.

“I also believe it to be of the utmost importance that waiting lists for access to CAMHS are tackled urgently. I, along with many other public representatives where constituents are facing difficulty in getting their children into these services, when the fact remains that timely access to such services is vital for many children and young people facing mental health difficulties.”