HFHR addresses state of Polish paediatric mental health care
The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights strongly condemns the many years of neglect in the area of psychiatric care for children. It is absolutely unacceptable for underage patients to have to stay in the same ward with adult patients because of a lack of money for specialised institutions for children. This practice may not only exacerbate mental disorders presenting in children, but also exposes minors to physical and sexual abuse by adult inmates. Today, the media informed the public about such an incident in one of the hospitals.
The current situation constitutes a serious violation of human rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international law. Article 68(3) of the Constitution not only obliges the state to provide health care for children but also stipulates that such care should be specifically tailored to meet standards of paediatric care, which are more rigorous than those applicable to adult patients. The Constitution also obliges the state to protect the rights of the child, granting everyone the right to demand that public authorities protect the child from violence and cruelty. The HFHR notes that the presence of children with mental disorders in adult psychiatric wards and their exposure to violence from other patients may also be qualified as inhuman or degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and other international agreements binding on Poland.
It should hence be recognised that providing children with mental disorders with adequate and specialised psychiatric care should be a priority for the policymakers. Budgetary constraints can no longer justify maintaining a situation that endangers the health and life of children.
We would like to make it known that the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights will make every practical effort to provide appropriate legal assistance to minor patients whose rights have been violated and their parents. We invite all persons affected to report such cases to the Foundation’s legal department.