Monday 11 December 2017

Mother forced to lock son (12) with suicidal thoughts in room demands 'proper treatment'

Support: Joan Freeman, founder of Pieta House
Support: Joan Freeman, founder of Pieta House

Alan O’Keeffe

A mother whose 12-year-old son has exhibited suicidal and self-harm behaviour has demanded a law to outlaw placing children in adult psychiatric wards.

The 36-year-old mother-of-two told the that she was desperate for help.

Both she and her partner have resorted to locking their son into their own bedroom with them at night to ensure he had the 24 hour supervision they have been told that he needs.

 She was unhappy with the lack of appropriate treatment for him in the early stages of his illness.

When a paediatric psychiatist was not available at their local regional hospital during a particularly bad episode, she was told to bring him to another hospital 130km away, she said.

“When we got to the other hospital, the psychiatriast told us he could not treat our son because he was outside the hospital catchment area,” she said.

“I’m very upset and feel abandoned. My son does not have access to a proper treatment plan,” she said.

The mother has backed legislation proposed by Senator Joan Freeman, the founder of suicide prevention charity Pieta House.

The Independent senator said children who are suicidal, prone to self-harm, or in need of hospitalisation for psychiatric illness should not be treated in adult psychiatric hospitals or treated with adults.

She decided to launch a campaign on Tuesday  for new laws that would oblige the HSE to work more closely with private hospitals in ensuring children receive psychiatric help in appropriate surroundings.

“Children with mental health problems  should not be treated in adult psychiatric hospitals nor in adult accident and emergency departments,” said Senator Freeman.

There are only 62 psychiatric public hospital beds for children in Ireland despite a major recommendation 10 years ago in the Vision for Change document which recommended at least 100 beds, she said.

There are just 46 beds in the private hospital sector but this would increase more rapidly if new legislation is adopted, she said.

‘Project 95’ being launched by the senator today received its name because of the 95 children that were admitted to adult psychiatric units in Ireland last year.

“This was due to a lack of suitable emergency and inpatient placements for children at risk of suicide or self-harm,” she said.

“This practice was due to be phased out 10 years ago,” she said. 

Senator Freeman has proposed that increased engagement between the public and private sectors would decrease the existing waiting list of 2,298 children waiting for mental health assessment as of last July.

Three-quarters of mental health difficulties arise before the age of 25, she said. 

Senator Freeman proposes that implementing a collaboration agreement between the HSE and the Independent sector would ensure a reduction in the existing waiting lists for child and adolescent mental health assessments.

If you need someone to talk to, contact: Samaritans 116 123 or email

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