HFHR Intervenes in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Cases in Poland

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has sent a letter to the Minister of Health expressing concerns about media reports on inadequate care for young psychiatric patients.

Recently, Polish media has been focusing on the conditions that children and adolescents that need psychiatric treatment are facing. The most pressing problems that have been reported include insufficient funding for specialised paediatric psychiatry wards, children being placed in adult wards, minor patients being subject to violence and sexual abuse by adult patients, overworked psychiatrists, a significant percentage of Polish children and adolescents struggling with mental health issues and more and more child psychiatry wards being shut down.

HFHR writes letter about inadequate conditions to Polish minister of health

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) has been involved in making sure everyone can exercise their right to medical care under good conditions for a long time. So in view of the recent media reports about unacceptable psychiatric care for young people, it wrote a letter to the Minister of Health highlighting international standards for the protection of minors’ health. The letter draws attention to the obligations arising from the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). We also noted recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).

Missive focuses of states rights to minors based on European court rulings

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that the state has a “positive obligation” to introduce specific measures to prevent the deterioration of the physical and mental health of individuals for whom it is particularly responsible. In the letter HFHR points out that the state has special obligations towards children, who must be protected from ill-treatment, including from abuse committed by private individuals. In addition to the standards established by the ECtHR, the letter also refers to the recommendations made by the CPT, which, based on the monitoring of a number of psychiatric facilities, points out that children and adults should be placed in separate wards.

Clear link between children's health and protecting them from violence

HFHR also draws attention to the standards developed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The letter underlines that there is a clear link between realising children’s right to health care and their right to an adequate standard of living and protection against all forms of psychological or physical violence. The Convention requires children to have access to mental health care. This care also has to be provided in line with the developmental needs of children, especially if the child in question has a difficult family situation or a stigmatising illness.

HFHR also intervened in three cases concerning incidents at the Professor Tadeusz Bilikiewicz Provincial Psychiatric Hospital in Gdańsk. In a letter addressed to the District Prosecutor, the Foundation asked for information on the proceedings pending in these cases. It emphasised that guaranteeing the right to health care and decent conditions of medical treatment is a key responsibility of the state.