Background: There is no published research on attitudes of psychiatrists towards children visiting parents who are acutely-unwell and inpatients in psychiatric hospitals. Nor is there information on facilities available for such visits.
Objectives: (I) To assess the attitudes of Irish psychiatrists towards children visiting. (II) To determine the availability of child-friendly facilities within admission units.
Method: A questionnaire was posted to every consultant psychiatrist accepting acute adult admissions in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Results: The response rate was 69%. Ninty-seven per cent were in favour of children visiting. Almost half felt that decisions on visits should depend on the particular situation, considering the child, parent, ward, etc. However, only 11% of units had a room/area designated for children visiting. 90% had no facilities they considered child-friendly on their unit. A majority felt that arrangements for children visiting were inadequate.
Conclusions: This topic is of interest to psychiatrists, and can be contentious, particularly when considering supervision of, and legal responsibility for, children visiting. Guidance on these issues would aid psychiatrists and hospital management. Poor facilities and infrequent visits may be a factor in the early development of stigma towards mental illness. Further research, improvements in facilities and staff training in liaison with children are needed.