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What are my rights to mental health treatment as a young person in Ireland?

You can only consent to mental health treatment when you are over the age of 18


Written by Children's Rights Alliance and posted in life


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This factsheet is an extract from the publication Know Your Rights: The Rights of Children and Young People published by the Children's Rights Alliance. It is reproduced here with their kind permission. Know Your Rights is a public information project designed to inform everyone, in plain language, of the rights and entitlements children have in Ireland and where to go when they are not respected.

Looking after your mental health is as important as looking after your physical health.

At different times in your life your mental health may be affected by what is going on around you. Many everyday things can affect your mental health or sometimes a big event, like the death of someone you love or living in poverty, can affect you. You can also have an ongoing mental health condition, and your mental health can suffer, even if other parts of your life are going well.

Where can I get help for a mental health issue in Ireland?

If you feel you may need help, remember that you are not alone, even if it may seem that way. It is important to open up about how you are feeling to someone you trust. There are many online supports and phone helplines that you can use. If you are worried about yourself or a friend, talk to your family or look for help from youth mental health organisations and groups.

There are several online and phone resources for young people which give information on different areas of mental health. These include:

You could also talk to a friend, or ask for support through your school.

Speaking to your doctor about your mental health 

A first step may be to talk to your doctor about what help you may need. Your doctor can address most mental health issues directly or with the help of therapy that may be available in your community. Sometimes, as part of the treatment, you may need:

  • medicines
  • to see a counsellor
  • to see a specialist mental health doctor
  • or to stay in a mental health hospital

The doctor will be able to talk to you about the type of treatment they would recommend for you.

At what age can I give permission to receive mental health treatment? 

Any decision about your mental health or treatment for a problem that you are experiencing should take your best interests into account. Until you are 18, your parents give or refuse permission for you to receive treatment. Once you are 18 years old you can give or refuse permission to be treated for mental health. This includes consenting to being admitted to hospital for mental health treatment and care.

If I am in hospital, how long will I have to stay?

The length of stay in hospital is different for everyone. Most young people are admitted to hospital voluntarily. This means that you, your parent or guardian and the doctors have made the decision together for you to go into hospital.

The doctors will aim to keep you in hospital until you are better. Your parent has the right to take you home at any time, when you are in hospital on a voluntary basis. If your parent feels that you should be in hospital and you do not wish to be there, you can ask your treatment team to review the decision.

What is ‘involuntary detention’?

‘Involuntary detention’ is when the doctors in charge of your care ask the District Court for permission to admit you to hospital or keep you in hospital when your parent or guardian does not want you to stay. This can happen if the doctor feels you might be a risk to yourself or others. It can also happen if your parent or guardian decides to take you out of hospital and the doctors think you are not ready or well enough to leave.

The court can order that you be kept in hospital for up to 21 days. This order can be renewed for periods of three or six months. Your doctors will continually review your mental health. You and your parent or guardian may be asked for your views. When your doctors feel that you are well enough, they will ask the court to withdraw the involuntary detention order.

Who has the right to information about my mental health treatment?

People involved in your mental health care and treatment will have access to information about your mental health. Normally your information will be shared with your parent or guardian also. Your information will not be shared with anyone else unless:

  • you want it to be
  • you are in danger of harm
  • it could be used as evidence of a crime

What does the Mental Health Commission do?

The Mental Health Commission is an independent organisation set up in 2002. It carries out a number of activities including keeping a register of approved inpatient mental health centres, preparing codes of practice and guidelines for people working in mental health services. They also appoint an Inspector of Mental Health Services who annually inspects mental health services, including centres where young people are being treated. 

Can I make a complaint to the Mental Health Commission?

The do not investigate individual cases but if you contact them with a concern about a specific service they can refer you to the Inspector of Mental Health Services. The Inspector logs all concerns that relate to mental health services and these are taken into account on inspection of services.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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Published June 17th2020
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