Teenager who tried to kill herself twice left on general ward
Published 01/04/2016 | 02:30
A teenage girl who has attempted suicide twice this year is being left in a general hospital medical ward because no mental health centre has deemed her "suitable" to take in.
The 13-year-old has been on a medical ward in the southeast since late January, after being admitted twice that month for attempted overdoses.
Senior government ministers are aware of the situation.
The child's mother told the Irish Independent that her daughter had been receiving no treatment at the hospital and had been told by a number of organisations and mental health units that she was not suitable for in-patient care because of "violent tendencies".
She was diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) by the HSE's mental health agency for children and adolescents, CAMHS.
The teenager took her first overdose on January 23, swallowing four tablets prescribed for ODD. She was taken to hospital, where she was monitored overnight.
However, she was sent home the next day and proceeded to take another overdose eight days later, swallowing 16 of the same pills.
The girl was rushed to hospital and kept overnight, but the hospital again said that she could go home the next day. This time, her mother refused to take her home.
"I had to walk away from the hospital for three days for her to be kept there because I said, 'I'm not going to be here for the third time, this child wants out of life and if I take her home, it won't be an ambulance I'll be calling, it'll be an undertaker,'" the mother said.
"They couldn't send her home if there was nobody there. It was the only option I had to keep her alive."
Since then, the child has been kept on a general paediatric ward, despite receiving no psychiatric treatment or medication, apart from a weekly visit from a psychiatrist from CAMHS.
"She is on no medication. She has become violent and is self-harming and she can't leave her room because she's a danger to herself and to others. It's a public ward, where there are five other beds," her mother said.
The family and an advocate for them were told by mental health units in Cork, Galway and Dublin that she "did not meet the criteria".
However, a Kildare-based in-patient health centre said it had room for her if she got a referral from a social worker.
The family subsequently contacted the child-welfare agency, Tusla, which insisted that mental-health issues were not within its remit, despite the child being kept under observation in a general hospital ward. Tusla has confirmed that this is the case.
The Department of Health and the HSE have said that they are aware of the situation and are trying to find a solution to the issue.