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Pieta House calls for ban on children being admitted to adult-only psychiatric units

Founder Joan Freeman wants the government to allow such children to be admitted to private institutions.

shutterstock_487768639 Source: Shutterstock/kung_tom

THE FOUNDER OF suicide charity Pieta House has called on children with mental health issues to be granted access to private institutions.

Senator Joan Freeman wants the government to take the action to stop such children from being admitted to adults-only institutions.

The charity is pushing for the admission of children to adult-facilities to be banned via legislation, although Freeman  admits that that “will take a year”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Freeman said that Ireland is “in breach of all international regulations” by allowing the “enormous problem” of children in adult psychiatric units.

“The inspector of mental health services has described this as inexcusable, counter-therapeutic and almost custodial,” she said.

Freeman says that the fact the 2001 Mental Health Act made no provision for children “was the first problem”.

“The second problem is that children today are dealing with very different issues like cyber-bullying, pornography, gambling addiction. If this continues the consequences down the road will be insurmountable.”

She claims that by making it illegal to admit children to adult units, the HSE “will be forced to come up with alternatives”.

“Legislation will take a year, but there are many immediate things we can look at. Collaboration between private hospitals and the public sector could almost immediately decrease these admissions,” Freeman said.

Waiting list

This will decrease the 2,300 children who are on the waiting list and all it requires is a dialogue with intent and the government to draw up a service-level agreement.

Freeman bemoaned the fact that one private institution in Ireland had less than six referrals last year, while eight children were sent to England “at a cost of €3 million to our country”.

“The government is very good at creating new task forces and new documents with new strategies, and all they do is gather dust. We need to do something practical,” she said.

Speaking later on the same programme, Minister for Mental Health Helen McEntee said that the level of admissions of children to adult-only psychiatric units has in fact greatly improved in recent years.

“We still have work to do for definite. But in 2008 75% of children were put in inappropriate care. Last year 95% of children were put in appropriate care. So we’ve seen massive improvements in recent years,” she said.

Clarifying Freeman’s call for access to be given to children into the State’s private mental health institutions McEntee said that there is “an ongoing conversation between the HSE and the private sector”, but that “a balance needs to be struck with how we improve our own services”.

“We are all fishing from the same pool here,” she said.

But something I am very conscious of as a minister is that when we are talking about these figures we’re talking about people and their lives, so this is something that cannot wait.

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

  • National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: ‘A friend and an ally’ – but Enda Kenny won’t meet Nicola Sturgeon on her two-day visit to Dublin

Read: ‘I look at photos of my grandchildren to keep me sober’: beating homelessness

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