Child involuntarily detained under the Mental Health Act – 2014vol3#9

The District Court made an order under section 25 of the Mental Health Act, 2001 detaining an autistic boy in a mental health facility against his wishes. The boy’s mother was not in court as she was at home looking after him. The mother’s solicitor told the court that she supported the application as a measure of last resort.

A consultant child and adolescent psychologist told the court that she knew the boy for four years and that he had been offered extensive treatment from different disciplines but that his engagement had been minimal. She went on to say that there had been a significant dis-improvement recently. The court heard that he was in his second year of secondary school but had not spoken to any other students or staff in a long time. For a number of months the boy had gone straight to his room when he got home from school and eats all his meals in his room.

The court heard that the previous summer he had remained house bound for three months. The psychologist went on to say that the boy had not showered in months, that he did not cut his toe nails and that he had slept in his uniform for three weeks. His only verbal contact with his mother was to tell her to “shut up” and that he hated her. He has peeled wallpaper off the walls in the house and has smashed the doors also, she said.

The psychologist told the court that the boy had significant anxiety issues and selective mutism which indicated a very intense form of social phobia. She said that she did not think he had any insight into his condition and she was satisfied that he had a mental condition. She said that she envisaged that the boy would be in hospital for four to six weeks and that contact with parents is encouraged when patients have been hospitalised in this way.

In appointing a guardian ad litem (GAL), the judge said that it might be of benefit to the mother to have someone to liaise with, especially if an application for an extension is brought. Granting the order, she said that she was satisfied that the boy was suffering from a mental illness, anxiety and depression, that his judgment was impaired and that he had no insight into his condition. She was also satisfied that it would not be possible to admit him as an outpatient due to his failure to engage.

The solicitor for the CFA asked the court to grant a warrant in case it was required to enter the house. The judge granted it reluctantly, saying that she found it very hard to see how doing so was in the boy’s best interests but that it might be more traumatic to come back to court to seek a warrant if they could not gain entry to the house.