PEOPLE with mental illnesses who are not improving are being “contained” with medication in mental health facilities which do not provide them with any solution for their condition, mental health lawyers have warned.
Chairman of the Mental Health Lawyers Association, Mark Felton, who represents people involuntarily admitted to psychiatric hospitals, said there is no low-security forensic unit in the country to deal with people in need of specialised care.
Because of this, Mr Felton said, people with a mental illness are languishing in psychiatric units around the country with no therapeutic interventions or options available for moving them on. Many are being involuntarily detained.
Last year, there were 2,024 involuntary admissions to psychiatric units, with just 9% being revoked.
Under the Mental Health Act 2001, involuntary detention must be reviewed by a tribunal with a lawyer representing the patient.
Tribunal solicitor Eamonn Maloney, also a member of the Mental Health Lawyers Association, said people with high needs were simply being contained and pumped with medication.
“I am not a medical expert, but I would see people disimproving over time. When they first arrive, yes they might be angry and agitated, but they are focused and know what is going on.
“Three weeks later medication has made them hazy, confused, slower and they are slurring their words.”
Mr Maloney, who represents patients who have been detained in units in the Cork region, said, in his experience, families were not notified about tribunals as a rule of thumb, and the process is essentially held in camera.
“Often, a reason given for further detention is that if the person is released they may drink or take drugs which would lead to them not taking their medication,” Mr Maloney said.
“But there are no efforts made to help the person avoid such situations or treat any issues around this.”
Dr Siobhán Barry of the Irish Psychiatric Association agreed there are “huge gaps” in what treatments are available: “There is a huge difference between having someone in a psychiatric unit, and having someone in the Central Mental Hospital at Dundrum and there is nothing in between.”
Dr Barry said doctors should have to prove to mental health tribunals that a patient would benefit from further detention.
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