By Eilish O’Regan
Tuesday June 22 2010
Some 200 children and adolescents under the age of 18 were admitted to adult psychiatric hospitals last year.
Twelve young people under the age of 16 were among those treated in adult units — despite longstanding promises to provide suitable beds in juvenile facilities.
The vast majority taken in by adult hospitals (94pc) were aged between 16 and 17, according to figures released by the Mental Health Commission.
Overall, there were 365 young people admitted to psychiatric units last year. Ten of these were admitted involuntarily and had to be detained against their will.
The ongoing problem of insufficient in-patient beds in child units comes on top of continuing delays for young people who need to see a psychiatrist.
In 2009, 562 children waited more than a year to see a psychiatrist. Another 623 were on a waiting list for between six and nine months, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
A further 516 children faced a delay of three to six months while around a third of those on a waiting list — 907 — were seen in less than three months.
The 50 child and adolescent mental health community services reported that a total of 2,608 young people were waiting to be seen by a psychiatrist at the end of December last.
This figure, however, represents a drop of 1,101 from the first complete survey of such waiting lists in March, 2007.
The HSE said the ultimate target was that 100pc of children referred would be seen “within three months”. The aim is to have 70pc seen in three months this year and 100pc over the next three to five years.
SIPTU national nursing official Louise O’Reilly, who represents psychiatric nurses, said the recent report of the Mental Health Commission made for highly uncomfortable reading which highlighted the inhumane conditions in some adult mental health hospitals.
The report, published last week, recommended the closure of three mental health hospitals, St Ita’s and St Brendan’s in Dublin, and St Senan’s in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
“These facilities fail to live up to what the patients and staff deserve but it is wrong to write them off without looking at the alternatives,” she said.
“The closure of these units to admissions from next February without adequate investment in community services will mean that the State is turning its back on this most vulnerable group yet again.”
– Eilish O’Regan