The Policing Authority has today published ‘The Garda Síochána and Child Mental Health: An investigation of pathways to crisis mental health care’ by Professor Fiona McNicholas and Dr. Louise Rooney, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UCD School of Medicine and Dr Deirdre Healy, UCD Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin. This is the second of two pieces of research funded by the Policing Authority’s inaugural Research Bursary Scheme in 2019.
This small scale qualitative study examines the current care pathways of children experiencing a crisis mental health event, from first contact with the Garda Síochána through to mental health assessment and care. The research identifies the opportunities and challenges associated with the pathways to child and adolescent psychiatric care via the criminal justice system from the perspective of Garda members, medical staff and social workers. Key findings include that Garda members demonstrate a great deal of care and thoughtfulness towards the children they encounter, which demonstrates both how seriously members take this responsibility, and how the responsibility can weigh heavily on their shoulders.
Policing Authority Chairperson, Bob Collins commented:
“The Authority welcomes the contribution this research makes to the knowledge of how children and their families experience interacting with the Garda Síochána during a crisis mental health event. The role of the Garda Síochána as first responders to children in mental health crisis is one of the most demanding roles faced by a member of the service. This study offers a crucial insight into the role of the Garda Síochána in responding to and managing often challenging child mental health events. It offers recommendations regarding the pathway into appropriate and safe care for children in crisis. We hope that this research will assist the Garda Commissioner in improving policing services, and help provide better outcomes for children.”
This research makes a number of recommendations in relation to:
- Specialist Education and Training;
- The Provision of Service Information for the Gardaí and Medical Professionals;
- Youth focuses Protocol and Procedure;
- Developing Interagency Relationships;
- Crisis Intervention; and
- Garda Wellbeing.
The Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development (ACJRD) Mental Health Working Group will host a seminar on this report in conjunction with the Policing Authority and the research team. This seminar will take place on Wednesday 1 December 2021, and further details will be available in due course.
Notes to Editor
Background on the Bursary
In 2019, the Policing Authority awarded two inaugural bursaries under a new Research Bursary Scheme. In accordance with the Policing Authority’s Statement of Strategy 2019-2021, the main objective of the Research Bursary Scheme was to promote continuous improvement in policing through creating relevant and robust research capacity in the policing field. It was hoped that the research results would enhance the Policing Authority’s familiarity with new evidence-based research on policing, and help promote public and stakeholder awareness of quality new research on policing.
Background on the Research
This study adopted a qualitative research design incorporating semi-structured interviews that were carried out in two phases. Phase one interviews were conducted with a sample of 18 Garda members, of varying ranks (Garda, Sergeant, and Juvenile Liaison Officers). Phase two interviews were conducted with a sample of 11 other professional stakeholders involved in the care pathway; namely, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists, Emergency Department Doctors and Nurses, and a Tusla Social Worker.