Petition to build a secure CAMHS psychiatric unit

Hey guys, Katie Here. I created this petition to build a secure CAMHS psychiatric unit when I was 21 years of age. It is something Ireland has needed for many years. When I was fourteen year old psychiatric patient we needed it and I am sure we needed it long before then. This is something very close to home for me.  I have been trying to persuade the HSE to build a bespoke secure psychiatric unit in Ireland for children and adolescents with mental health difficulties, autism, and challenging behaviour. We don’t have a secure hospital in Ireland.  I spent most of my teenage years in a child and adolescent psychiatric hospital before I was sedated on a military helicopter and transferred to a secure psychiatric unit in the UK against my will.  I spent 22 months here.  I can’t even get across to you how traumatizing and horrific this experience was.  I had no say.  I couldn’t come back.  I was bullied by others and I still couldn’t come home. I was subjected to improper restraint. Sedation. Seclusion. Padded cells.  And 20 minutes a day to make a call to my family back home.  I barely left the ward. Each day I prayed to come home.  Each day seemed more impossible. I got more depressed.  More suicidal.  And I thought I’d never get out.  It was like a prison. I wrote to Leo Varadkar who was the Minister of Health at the time .I wrote to Irish High Court Judges. I wrote about it in the Irish newspapers.  I begged for a change.  So many Adolescents are sent there against their will and will continue to be sent there against their will out of the eye of the public if we don’t make a change. A judge once said in a court case with all the money the HSE spent fighting to keep me there they could have built a hospital here. I still have nightmares of being trapped back there. Early intervention is key. It is not acceptable to keep shipping our children in need away to the UK because we as a country are unable to see the need and urgency for a service like this.  Imagine that was your kid being shipped of to another country for medical treatment. So far removed that you had to take a commercial flight just to travel and visit she/he never mind the expenses of the whole trip. I wouldn’t wish it on any parent. By showering your support and signing this petition we have a chance to make it right. To get the government to listen. To have that secure facility built.

To help put it into perspective, this is a snippet of my own story as one of the Irish teenagers sent to the UK for psychiatric treatment.

In November 2013 at 16 years of age, I was transferred from CAMHS inpatient Unit in Galway to St. Andrews Healthcare Northampton on Irish High Court Order. I was sent abroad because Ireland didn’t have the facilities or services to manage my mental health and keep me safe. I didn’t have any say. I was sedated and brought on a military helicopter from Baldonnell Airforce in Dublin. When I woke up I was on the psychiatric ward. I had just been flown out of my country, I was somewhere foreign and I was completely alone. I can’t even begin to describe the damage from that place. I will carry those wounds for the rest of my life. If I told you some of the things I had to endure you would think I was lying. It would shock a nation. It has shocked a nation. After 22 months I won the right to return to Ireland. I won my own freedom. The HSE wanted to transfer me to an adult ward for another 18 months and I fought this. I won because I was strong enough to advocate for my own rights, my own voice. I would not be silenced and I would not let more wrongdoing occur. I wanted Justice and I fought for my own Justice. I was the one who survived. At 18 years of age I was powerful enough to fight the HSE and say this is wrong. When I returned home I made it public what I went through. I wanted the general population of Ireland to know how we were treating our young people, and how we were failing our young people. It wasn’t public knowledge knowing what TULSA and the HSE were doing to Irish adolescents by shipping them abroad and failing to build the facility so needed here. 

I was going to be damned if I didn’t use my voice to shout it from the rooftops and make the public aware. If the public were aware maybe there was potential for change. Maybe if enough people knew about it something would have to be done. 

The following extract was written in 2019 5 years after I returned.

*It would seem the situation will never change. Only a few days ago a young person told me they were trying to send her over. And there was nothing I could do only wonder would she ever return. It was five years ago when I asked Leo Varadkar our Minister of Health at the time to build a secure adolescent psychiatric unit in Ireland so we stopped letting our youth down. Five years on and the government and the HSE still haven’t built the facility Irish young people so desperately need.*

I have attached all the newspaper articles written at the time of my return along with some other articles so you can see for yourself. Links 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all written about my own case.

Vulnerable woman to be returned to Ireland

Tusla says St Andrew’s mental health facility is highly regulated

Vulnerable teen ‘wants to return home’

Call for inquiry into HSE’s handling of vulnerable teen’s legal action

HSE must pay €1m legal costs in case of vulnerable woman

Woman to return home after 20 months in UK unit

UK mental health facility accommodating Irish children faces closure

Six Irish children sent to psychiatric units abroad in last two

Dispatches Investigation Finds Shocking Treatment Of Child Mental Health Patients

‘Repeated failings’ at St Andrew’s Healthcare mental health charity

A High Court Judge dealing with my case in July 2015 told the HSE

“With all the money you have spent on legal fees trying to keep that woman in the UK,  you would have been able to build a bespoke purpose facility for her here. “

This facility is long overdue. It needs to happen and I hope you will support me in my fight to go about doing that.

Katie Woods

You can find the petition in the link below.


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