The number of children presenting to Temple Street Hospital has increased more than 500% in ten years — and many are presenting with suicidal ideation.
This is according to a study published in this month’s Irish Medical Journal.
New research has shown the dramatic increase in the number of mental health presentations to the paediatric emergency department of the Dublin hospital.
Dr Eoin Fitzgerald, paediatric specialist registrar in the emergency department of Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, says presentations increased by 526%.
The mental health study looked at presentations from 2006 to 2016, which increased from 69 to 432.
During the same period of time, the total emergency department attendance only increased 7%, from 48,742 in 2006 to 52,287 in 2016.
The study also recorded a detailed annual breakdown of data from September 2013 to August 2014.
This showed the most common complaint children presented with was suicidal ideation (34%), followed by deliberate self-harm (31%) and depression (11%).
There are a number of factors behind this increase, among them a greater awareness regarding mental health in the general public in recent years.
Another factor is long waiting times for out-patient assessments.
Dr Fitzgerald says the study highlights the importance of mental health service provision to young people in emergency departments and the out-of-hours specialist psychiatric cover provided.
He told the Irish Medical Journal: “Looking at the data for the one-year study period, the majority of patients (66.7%) did not require hospital admission following an assessment by the ED staff and the psychiatry services where requested.
Their input undoubtedly helps to signpost and support referral to local services and avoid unnecessary admissions, where such admissions may ultimately be unhelpful to young people and families.
He added: “Given the dramatic increase in mental health presentations, it is clear carefully designed and integrated management strategies and additional resources will be required to proactively tackle this growing epidemic.”
Last October, it was revealed that eight children were admitted to an adult psychiatric unit in Waterford despite multiple warnings to the HSE that the facility was unsuitable for youngsters.
The Mental Health Commission, which inspected the 44-bed unit at University Hospital Waterford in April, said in a new report that eight children were admitted in the nine months since the previous inspection in July 2018.
An examination of the commission’s reports going back to 2008 shows the HSE has been repeatedly told the unit is unsuitable for children.
Susan Finnerty, inspector of mental health services, said children continue to be admitted to adult mental health centres, “despite the absence of age-appropriate facilities and a programme of activities”.
Earlier this month, it was reported that nearly 100 children have been waiting for at least 18 months for an appointment with the mental health service.