Taoiseach Brian Cowen says a new purpose-built facility in Cork will cater for future child psychiatric admissions in the southeast from early December. However, the head of Ireland’s leading independent children’s charity has painted a “dismal picture” of the State’s neglect of psychologically-vulnerable youngsters, despite the best efforts of frontline staff.

Two boys and a girl aged 17, and a 14-year-old girl were admitted to the Waterford Adult Mental Health services unit last Sunday and Monday week, despite the fact that since July 2009 no-one under-16 is supposed to be placed in an adult psychiatric setting. Indeed, the minimum age limit is to be raised to 17 from December 1st and to 18 in late 2011.

The HSE said it was “exceptional and uncommon” for adolescents to have been admitted to the 44-bed Waterford unit. However, it’s been revealed that 200 young people were taken into adult psychiatric units last year – seven of them on an involuntary basis.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association says teenagers have been turning up at hospital emergency departments all over the country with mental-health complaints. Consultants are admitting them to general children’s wards in some cases rather than turning them away. They receive one-to-one psychiatric care in the paediatric wards, but the situation is “far from ideal,” said PNA chairman Liam MacNamara. “If a child receives the proper treatment, they may never have a problem again,” he added.

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