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Mental health services for children remain inadequate, stigma prevails

The Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, has today (Tuesday) criticised the continuing use of adult psychiatric wards for the treatment of children, and has called for the implementation of the recommendations of A Vision for Change to proceed without further delay.

The Ombudsman has also said that the stigma surrounding mental health issues is preventing children and young people from seeking assistance, and that many do not know to whom they can turn for support if they need it.

The Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, stated:

“Since its establishment, my Office has been contacted by a number of children who have described their fear and distress at being admitted to adult psychiatric wards for medical treatment. My Office has also been contacted by medical professionals regarding the lack of child and adolescent mental health services throughout the country.

“I am very concerned that children continue to be treated in adult facilities, and believe that it is imperative that the treatment of those under 18 in adult wards is brought to an end as a priority.

“The development of dedicated mental health facilities for children was one of the recommendations of “A Vision for Change: the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy”.

This report was adopted by the Government in January 2006, but in terms of implementation we are far behind where we should be. Last May, the Independent Monitoring Group, put in place to evaluate the implementation of A Vision for Change, listed among its concerns that the provision of child and adolescent inpatient facilities had still not been adequately addressed.

“Mental health issues were raised with me by many children and young people when I visited schools and training centres around the country in October. Many told me that they want to have access to information and assistance locally, and that in times of crisis they would like to have a place to go to that is welcoming and non-threatening. I am deeply concerned that the stigma surrounding mental health issues is preventing children and young people who need assistance from asking for help.

“Driving a cultural change in how we support young people with mental health problems should go hand-in-hand with the development of new facilities. Young people must be listened to, and must have a voice in their treatment and in the making of key decisions that affect them. This will help to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health, a stigma that all advocates for children, medical professionals, public representatives, and parents, must challenge.”

The Ombudsman for Children was speaking at the International Youth Mental Health Conference, taking place at the National Children’s Hospital Tallaght.


Note to Editors:

A full copy of the speech delivered by the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, is available on request, or can be downloaded from here