Experiencing mental health issues can be a worrying time, and sometimes even more so when you are young. Find out how we can help ease your journey through the system, and learn how you can make your voice heard.
Going into hospital, either voluntarily or involuntarily, can often be a worrying experience. If you have never been admitted to an inpatient mental health centre before, you will probably have lots of questions about what will happen and what you can expect.
If you are under the age of 18, other factors may come into play which will likely prompt additional queries from either yourself or your parents or guardians. Apart from being unwell, you may not have any experience of mental health services, or it may be the first time you have had to spend a period of time away from your home or your parents.
The good news is that the mental health staff are there to support and care for you on your journey through the mental health system. Ultimately, they are there to help you get better.
As the regulator for certain inpatient mental health services, the MHC wants to ensure that, as far as it is possible, your stay is a positive one.
The provision of the highest quality and the most appropriate mental health services for young people is a matter that we have and will continue to focus on. In recent years, we have taken a number of steps to help ensure that young people feel empowered and listened to when they engage with services. These include the following initiatives:
- Together with key stakeholders, we developed a self-advocacy and right-based guide for young people accessing in-patient child and adolescent mental health services in Ireland called ‘The Headspace Toolkit’. This guide will help you to be as prepared and informed as you can be about what to expect during your stay; it will inform you about your rights; and it will show you how you can speak up for yourself. The toolkit comes with a set of forms (called power tools) that have been designed to help you have more control over your care and treatment. By filling out these forms and asking staff to read and answer any questions you have, you will ensure that mental health staff and other adults hear you better; have your questions answered; know what is happening with your care, treatment and general circumstances as an inpatient; and be able to work out what you want to happen with your care, treatment and circumstances.
The MHC is going to review and update this Toolkit in 2021. It will seek the input of young people using mental health services.
- We have also developed a jargon-buster document that clearly sets out what some unfamiliar terms mean in plain English. As with any profession, those working in healthcare sometimes use words and phrases than are not easily understood, or which can inadvertently cause confusion.
- The MHC developed a stakeholder initiative in 2019, which sees mental health service users across Ireland come and present to our Board (the Commission) to update the members on what is happening in practice and to inform the Board in their ongoing work. These presentations have and will continue to include organisations and people representing young people, such as SpunOut.ie.
- We also closely monitor the admission of children and young people to inpatient mental health services. The MHC has been very clear in its view that children should not be admitted to adult units save in exceptional circumstances. While we welcome a trend that has seen child admissions to adult units fall year-on-year for the past 10 years, we want to ensure that all children are getting the care and treatment they need in suitable units. We wish to ensure that a child’s first introduction to mental health services should not be through a service or building that is not specifically equipped to support their needs.
- Finally, it should be noted that we continually consider what could make the service better for children and young people and make submissions to the relevant government departments for changes to the legislation and policies if we feel it is appropriate to do so. As the regulator of mental health services, the MHC is concerned about the lack of oversight we currently have in certain areas relating to children and young people and we are seeking to address this. Of particular importance to the MHC is that services inform the child/young person of what is going on at all stages of the process; that they hear from and listen to the child/young person’s views; that they involve the child/young person at all stages of the process; and that there is inter government agency co-ordination and collaboration to enhance the rights of and service to the child/young person.