Vulnerable youngsters at risk of suicide will be among the patients admitted to the Willow Grove Adolescent In-patient Unit in St Patrick’s University Hospital, Dublin.
An estimated 20% of teenagers in Ireland have a mental illness at any one time, with as many as one in 200 needing hospital inpatient care.
Paul Gilligan, St Patrick’s chief executive, said the establishment of the private 14-bed facility – which will be covered by health insurance – was vital to meet a vacuum in essential, mental health supports.
“Tragically, in the past, many young adults have not had access to such supports,” said Mr Gilligan.
“Only last year, over 200 young people under the age of 18 were treated in adult psychiatric facilities and this is no longer acceptable.
“Appropriate support and timely intervention results in significantly improved outcomes. The increase in teenage suicide, particularly among young men, particularly highlights the need for early interventions.”
The unit was opened by rugby international and Munster star Paul O’Connell.
Adolescent services at Willow Grove, led by consultant psychiatrist Sarah Buckley, will cater for 14 to 18-year-olds and programmes offered include mood, anxiety, eating disorders and psychosis. The average stay will be about 28 days.
Dr Sarah Buckley said increased pressures in society meant there was a growing demand for adolescent mental health services.
“Adolescence is a difficult and challenging time for many young people,” she said.
“External pressures from peers, as well as coping with the transition from child to adult can leave many young people feeling vulnerable and exposed.”
St Patrick’s University Hospital, and its sister hospital St Edmundsbury, provide inpatient, day care and outpatient services for depression management, bipolar disorder, psychiatry of old age, alcohol dependence, dual mood and addiction disorders, memory clinic and anxiety management.
Willow Grove also provides community services for young people through the Dean Clinic in Lucan, Co Dublin.