Stop treating mentally ill children like criminals

Mental Health - Girl in distresssource: The Guardian / Comment
published: 9 November 2014

Decades of neglect and shameful underfunding mean the young mentally ill are being thrown into police cells when they’re at their most vulnerable.

To understand the iniquity of detaining children in police cells for emergency psychiatric assessments, you have only to change the word “psychiatric” to “orthopaedic”.

It would be utterly unthinkable for a child with a broken leg to be treated in such a way simply because there was no space in hospital, yet this was the reality on 263 occasions for children experiencing a mental health crisis last year.

The figures are far higher for adults, but progress is being made, with a 24% reduction in the use of cells over the past year; street triage and crisis intervention teams alongside better use of medical places of safety are starting to make a difference.

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