Six children in government care died by suicide last year due to a lack of support for vulnerable people

Persistent weaknesses in mental health services for vulnerable young people have come to light when a new report found that 27 children in state care or known to social services have died in the past year.

Of the 27 deaths, 14 children died of natural causes, including cot deaths, and six died by suicide. One child was murdered, another died in an accident, and a third died of an overdose.

For another four children, the coroner has yet to reach a conclusion on the cause of death, according to the National Review Panel (NRP), which examines reported deaths.

The results show inadequacies and inconsistencies in the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service’s (CAMHS) response to children in need, many of whom had been referred to it
government service for help.

Thoughts of suicide do not constitute a mental illness under the service’s guidelines, he noted.

In one case of a child with suicidal ideation, the CAMHS response was well coordinated and reflected the views of psychiatrists that there is a lack of specialized in-patient psychiatric services for children in this predicament.

In another case where the child took his own life, the view was taken that suicidal ideation should not be considered a mental illness.

It says if a young person who self-harms is admitted to hospital they will be referred to CAMHS but may later be discharged because they are not considered mentally ill.

HSE and Tusla need a more targeted approach to supporting children who self-harm.

Most deaths occurred in two age groups – infants under one year old and 17 to 20 year olds, with the next highest group being 11 to 16 year olds.

The number of these tragedies was three fewer than in 2020. Four of the young people under the age of 18 – whose deaths were reported – were in care at the time of their death, an increase of one from 2020.

The remaining 23 children or adolescents/adults were known to Tusla and were living in their communities at the time of their deaths.

Two of the young people cared for at the time of death experienced multiple relocations.

The review also highlighted other shortcomings, including delayed and inadequate assessment and confusion in the investigation of sexual abuse.

There were weaknesses in the cooperation between different authorities, which was evident in one case, while in the case of two other children there was insufficient communication between Tusla and Gardaí. Six children in government care died by suicide last year due to a lack of support for vulnerable people

Fry Electronics Team

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