Suicidal teen in care wins court battle for treatment
Published 06/08/2011 | 05:00
A TROUBLED teenager with a history of suicide attempts will finally get treatment following a dispute over her age, the High Court heard yesterday.
Barrister Sarah McKechnie, representing the Health Service Executive (HSE), told Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan that a consultant psychiatrist specialising in the care of young adults had now been appointed to treat the 16-year-old girl.
The HSE will also provide cover if the consultant is not available. But counsel for the girl, who is detained in a secure unit on foot of a High Court order, said she had been forced to turn to the courts after her client -- who has a history of self-harm -- was found on two consecutive nights with a bedsheet tied around her neck.
The incidents occurred less than a month after she appeared at the court seeking psychiatric treatment for the girl after she was found with a suicide note and a cord around her neck, the court heard yesterday.
In another incident that the girl's solicitor Catherine Ghent described as a "riot" in the unit, the girl had written on a wall the chilling messages: "the system is killing me" and "you made me do it".
Yet when staff took her to hospital for assessment following her most recent suicide attempts, she was not seen by either adult or child psychiatrists employed by the HSE due to an ongoing dispute over who was responsible to treat her due to her age, the court heard.
Ms Ghent said she appeared at the court again yesterday to express her concern that the girl was not receiving adequate treatment from the HSE.
She added that the girl was finally assessed by a child psychiatrist following her first suicide attempt only when a High Court action was threatened.
The psychiatrist who did the initial assessment concluded the girl was not likely to act on her suicidal thoughts but that she should be monitored, she added.
Ms McKechnie said the HSE was "taking this matter very seriously," and had removed any potentially dangerous items such as her duvet cover from her room. She was also being constantly monitored.
She added that the girl has not been diagnosed with a mental illness but "behavioural" problems, adding she had not "engaged" with services provided for her to date.
A spokesman for the HSE last night refused to comment on the dispute, stating it did not comment on individual cases.
Nor would it comment on whether the dispute might extend to other older children in need of psychiatric care, leaving them effectively in limbo.
"In the interests of client confidentiality, the HSE will not comment on any individual case," said the spokesman.
"In general, 16-year-olds who present to the health service requiring psychiatric services are assessed by a child and adolescent psychiatrist and receive appropriate help and services," she added.