Nine-year-old's suicide prompts panel to highlight flaws

A NINE-year-old girl's suicide and a doctor who prescribed to a child medication only suitable for adults have prompted the state's child death review panel to highlight the systematic flaws in addressing children with mental health issues.

The Child Death Case Review Committee investigated 73 deaths in Queensland last year, including six suicides.

According to the committee's annual report, tabled in Parliament on Monday, the suicides included a nine-year-old and four 15-year-olds.

In five suicide cases, living in a regional or remote location was deemed a significant factor and four children had suspected or diagnosed mental health conditions.

In one heart-breaking case, a doctor prescribed adult medication to a boy to combat his suicidal tendencies and mental health issues.

The boy had previously been on a daily dose of three different prescribed medications.

The boy's behaviour changed significantly and two weeks later he killed himself.

The Health Quality and Complaints Commission is investigating.

Overall, 11% of reviewed deaths in 2011-2012 had a mental health element.

Six children had a formal diagnosis and two children were as young as 5-9 years old.

The emergence of mental health in child protection cases has exposed flaws in the way the Child Safety Department deals with the illness.

While the service system responded "positively" overall, the committee found "difficulties" with the Child Safety Department's ability to adequately take into account a child's mental health issues when considering the child's protection need, the ability to follow-up support services and a lacking capacity to deal with complex cases.

"The department's review and CDCRC identified that for six of the eight young people with mental health issues, there were inadequate risk assessments undertaken of all child protection concerns including the impact of the child's mental health issues," the report stated.

In half of the young people with mental health issues, the department "missed" opportunities to provide ongoing support to the children or their families.

"The committee considers that had the department focused on their core responsibility to provide a holistic and child-centred service delivery and to identify and follow-up with support options, it may have been better placed to address the mental health needs of the children," the report stated.

The CDCRC reviews a child's death if the child was known to the Queensland Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services Department.



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