Sunday 20 January 2019

'It's a living hell' - Family distraught as boy (15) spends weekend in adult psychiatric unit

Family distraught as 15-year-old has to spend Easter weekend in adult facility

Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A 15-year-old boy - whose parents feared for his safety after he was bullied - will spend all Easter weekend in an adult psychiatric ward due to a chronic lack of places in child mental health facilities.

The teenager's distraught father said his son spent last Friday night in a padded room listening to adults "screaming, shouting and banging on walls" due to a shortage of HSE beds for children with mental health issues.

"He is scared out of his mind and staff told us they won't be able to get him a bed in child services until at least Tuesday," he told the Sunday Independent.

The shocking case highlights the dire state of the country's child mental health services.

The teenager's father said his son was a "normal boy" until a bullying incident in his school had a serious impact on his mental health.

Since then, the boy has been receiving care from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (Camhs).

Last Thursday, he displayed severe mental health symptoms and his parents decided to admit him to a local hospital for his own safety.

The teenager stayed overnight in the hospital and the next day his parents were told a place in a children's facility could not be found despite a nationwide search.

He spent last Friday night and yesterday morning in a padded room before being taken to another room with a dedicated nurse. He is being kept separated from the adult patients on the ward.

The family yesterday said they contacted Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Children Katherine Zappone about their son's placement in an adult psychiatric ward. It is understood Mr Harris is aware of the child's case.

The boy's father praised staff whom he said were working has as hard as possible to find an appropriate place for their son.

"We can't say enough about the staff. They are doing everything. They just don't have the facilities. They keep telling me it's a long weekend and they can't find places. It's frightening," he said.

"We are distraught - it's a living hell and I wouldn't want any other parent to go through it.

"He's still not diagnosed. All it is that he has at the moment is anger issues. He has to go to hospital to be diagnosed.

"He is crying out for help and then he's admitted to an adult ward where he's scared out of his mind," he added.

A HSE spokesperson said they could not comment on individual cases but admitted there was a number of "regrettable" incidents where children with mental health difficulties were placed in adult services due to a lack of age-appropriate places.

"Regrettably, at times, an age-appropriate service is not available at the time it is needed," she said. "While it is not ideal, in circumstances like this, a young person may be admitted to and cared for in an adult facility. This is because it is deemed to be the best place to provide safe and professional care to the person involved.

"Where a young person is being cared for in an adult facility, special arrangements will be made, where possible, for them to be in a private room or suite, not sharing with adult patients, and for them to supported by a dedicated nursing team on a one-to-one basis.

"The HSE again acknowledges that circumstances like this are not ideal and have been working, with government investment, to improve both the bed capacity and staffing levels in this service over recent years. Other current steps include the ongoing recruitment of over 120 new assistant psychologists in primary care," she added.

Sunday Independent

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