Ireland has a particularly high youth suicide rate. Out of the European countries, it has the highest suicide rate in females 0-19 years old and the second highest in males 0-19 years old. So it’s especially important that Ireland work on improving its mental health services for young people to prevent suicide and to help those who survive attempts. According to The Irish Times, the HSE has confirmed that fifty children have been admitted to adult units rather than special children’s or adolescents’ units so far this year even though the Fine Gael/Labour coalition promised to phase this practice out except in cases of emergency in the 2011 Programme for Government.
Today Colm Keaveney, Fianna Fáil TD, advocated against this practice that’s obviously still happening, saying that it’s not fair to the children and teenagers themselves, to their parents, or to the staff of the adult units. When children or young teenagers are admitted to an adult unit, they are put into the care of staff who aren’t trained specifically to deal with younger patients. Arguably worse, they are often further traumatized being around adult patients.
So why is this happening? Sometimes there just aren’t beds available in the children’s ward. Sometimes there isn’t even a children’s ward close enough for the person to get to. And, unfortunately, it’s easy for people who aren’t in this situation to not care, so these kids are left without a voice. Even the support they got in word from Fine Gael/Labour was left pitifully unenforced. Although it’s nice that Keaveney is speaking out about this issue now, it will be quite another thing when the legislation is actually adhered to and children (and adults) in need of mental health services will be provided appropriate quality care with the sensitivity they need and deserve.