The Children Locked Up with Mentally Ill Adults; 155 Suffered Last Year, Even Though State Watchdog Calls Practice 'Inexcusable'
Byline: Ian Carey
DOZENS of vulnerable children were locked up in psychiatric units alongside mentally ill adults last year.
The Government's mental health watchdog has described the practice as 'inexcusable, counter-therapeutic and almost purely custodial'.
But the State placed 155 minors in the adult facilities, HSE figures show. There, the youngsters, some as young as 15, were treated for conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Yesterday, mental health campaigners blamed the problem on the Government for failing to deal with the chronic shortage of psychiatric inpatient beds.
At present, 30 beds are available for under-18s suffering from mental illness - but a 2006 official report said there should be 100.
Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: 'This is a shocking violation of human rights. The issue is clearly linked to a lack of imple-mentation of [mental health modernisation programme] A Vision For Change and the lack of appropriate children's mental health inpatient facilities.
'Just over half of the recommended community and specialist teams have been established, with just over one third having the recommended staffing required.
'More than 2,600 children and adolescents were on waiting lists for treatment in 2009. For those without support their problems are likely to worsen as they wait.'
Last summer, Dr Devitt's Mental Health Commission brought in a rule banning the placement of children under 16 in adult services. With a view to phasing out the practice from December, the age limit will rise to 17 and next year it will become 18.
Dan Neville, Fine Gael spokesman on mental health, said the problem boils down to the Government's unwillingness to invest in psychiatric services. …