independent

Saturday 20 July 2019

Self-harm teen placed in adult psychiatric care after going to hospital

Wexford General Hospital
Wexford General Hospital

Pádraig Byrne

In what is just the latest damning indictment of how Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are failing the young people of Wexford, the mother of a seventeen year old has spoken of how she presented at Wexford General on four separate occasions over a period of eight days with her daughter who had severely self-harmed. The girl, she says, was eventually placed under lock and key in an adult psychiatric ward in Waterford.

The mother (from this point known as Anne to protect her daughter's anonymity) says that her daughter has had major mental health problems for the past four years and in that time has had four CAMHS appointments with no care or treatment plan having been put in place.

'Since she was 13 she's had problems with her mental health,' Anne said. 'She's self-harmed and tried to take her own life. She says that she hears voices in her head and they tell her to kill herself and to stab people. Most recently she's left her arms in an awful state. I brought her up to Wexford General four times in the space of eight days and she was just referred to CAMHS. Her appointment came today and it's for next week, but I don't know if she'll be alive by then.'

With CAMHS in Wexford being massively under-resourced, Anne says there has been little progress in her daughter's case in the past four years. 'She went to CAMHS at the beginning of the year and saw a psychologist,' she explains. 'He was the one who comes across from Galway at the weekend to fill in (since Dr Kieran Moore left his position in Wexford a year ago citing unworkable conditions). Basically he told her to stop cutting herself and that he would have to diagnose her as bipolar.'

'Shortly after she saw the psychologist, she started burning herself instead of cutting herself,' a distraught Anne said. 'As bad as it is to say, it was almost like a relief because I knew that she couldn't kill herself that way.'

After Anne brought her daughter to Wexford General a fourth time, she was eventually brought to Waterford to an adult psychiatric unit.

'She was kept under lock and key and basically just medicated,' Anne explained.

'They just gave her anti-depressants and sleeping tablets, and she's had no therapy or anything. She was diagnosed with extreme BPD (bipolar disorder) and a high risk of suicide. They kept her for three days before she was discharged.'

'I begged them to get her into an adolescent unit,' Anne said.

'I told them I'd drive to Cork, Dublin, Galway, wherever was needed. They just told me no, that they're overcrowded and these places were only for extreme cases.'

'My daughter has tried to kill herself I don't know how many times in the last four years; how extreme does the case need to be? At the moment, I'm just trying to keep her alive long enough so that she can access adult services, which are slightly better, but not much.'

The whole situation has had a major impact on Anne's family life. She has three other children in the house, aged from just three up to 16.

'I'm on suicide watch 24/7 with her,' she said.

'I'm worried sick. I've asked the hospital, whose fault is it if myself or my daughter ends up in the mortuary?'

'People are dying out there because there's no care available to them.'

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