Mentally ill children locked up with violent adults

Mentally ill children are being systematically locked up with violent adults at several institutions across Sweden. In contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, says children's ombudsman Lena Nyberg to Svenska Dagbladet.

The UN Convention of the Rights on the Child stipulates in article 37 that “every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults.”

Svenska Dagbladet reports that many closed psychiatric departments across Sweden do not follow regulations and at several institutions children are mixed with adults, both systematically and in the case of emergency.

The most common explanation is that the children are considered to be too difficult to handle within child and youth psychiatry (BUP). The newspaper writes however that there are several examples of cases where children have been placed with adults due to lack of space or staff resources.

Sofia Åkerman was 16-years-old when her children’s ward was closed due to a lack of resources. She was relocated to an adult ward and says to Svenska Dagbladet that “the atmosphere and milieu is not suited to children. Brutality is a part of daily life in a completely different way to that within BUP.”

Åkerman adds that “many of the staff are not trained to meet the needs of children and the risk is great that young people cared for in such clinics will develop completely new problems.”

It is reported that the crisis is getting worse as medical staff are resigning due to the stress imposed by the shortage of resources.

“I am fully aware that the type of care offered to patients with the most serious problems needs to be looked at. The process of change has begun,” according to Eva-Britt Hallquist, head of the child and youth psychiatry clinic in Stockholm.