This very sad case reported today highlights the importance of specialist care being available for people who are at risk of self harm, and the current legislative confusion as to how to treat young people between 16 - 18 who require mental health services. 

John Taylor Partridge, a 17 year old boy, had been admitted to hospital after taking an overdose and had been assessed as being at high risk of self-harm, to the extent that he was to be reviewed for possible sectioning under the Mental Health Act. He left the hospital the next day without having been discharged and was brought back by police. Because it was a weekend, the specialist team for children and adolescent mental health was not available so he was assessed again by a junior doctor and a mental health nurse and he was allowed to discharge himself. Later that weekend he took his own life.

Under the Children Act, a young person is a child up to the age of 18, but the Mental Capacity Act is applicable to people aged 16 and over, so despite being under 18 John was treated as an adult, without being seen by a specialist service.