Figures in the last annual Mental Health report show worryingly high levels of sedative usage in Irish psychiatric units. Mental Health Inspectors are expressing strong concern at this, calling for a review of drug use in about a third of Irish centres.
Nine out of 26 inspection reports published on approved Mental Health centres revealed high use of sedation on patients. Such high rates were recorded all over Ireland, including Kilkenny’s St. Canices Psychiatric Hospital with 77 per cent of patients being prescribed sedatives known as benzodiazepines.
Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used to treat conditions such as seizures, insomnia, or anxiety. They are considered to be safe for short-term use, however over the long term the risks of overuse, abuse and dependence has been well documented.
Concerning figures are highlighted also at Newcastle Hospital in Wicklow (88 percent) and St. Aloysius, The Mater Hospital (73 per cent), Midwestern Regional hospital, Limerick (66 per cent), St. Ita’s Hospital (64 per cent), St. Brendan’s Hospital (72 per cent) and Lakeview unit, Naas (61 percent).
Mental Health Campaigners claim that these drugs are being used in some cases to control patient behaviour in absence of activities or therapeutic intervention.
These reports also strongly criticise the conditions of some current units, referring to some as inhabitable or dilapidated. The reports call for the closure of one particular centre, St. Finan’s, Killarney, deeming it unsuitable for the care or treatment of residents, criticising its cramped conditions that force residents to live in ‘rows of beds in long dormitories with no privacy, inadequate washing and toilet facilities and stark surroundings’ . Also recommending that the unit at St. Ita’s should be closed immediately due to ‘particularly disgraceful’ conditions’ stating in their report that ‘It was unacceptable that the older residents continued to live their lives in such an imporerished physical environment, with limited privacy and limited access to a safe and appropriate outdoor space’.
The State’s failure to close several dilapidated Mental Health units across Ireland has come into call under the Mental Health Commission’s Inspectors, along with funding and planning issues which have proved to cause delays in opening new facilities, forcing older, inadequate facilities to remain open.