“All happy families are alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. ” This idea comes from Lev Tolstoy, more precisely from his novel “Anna Karenina”.
I have thought about this statement repeatedly in recent months, when my attempts to bring the amendment to the Psychiatric Care Act in the Great Hall of the Riigikogu have met with the coldness and cynicism of the members of the government coalition.
Yes, we are talking about a draft that is aimed at helping children and which has also received some media attention. Indeed, families where the relationship between children and parents is in order, where children are heard and where love and trust prevail are not in need of an amendment to the law that would allow under-18s to turn to a psychiatrist without parental consent. This change does not apply to those families where both joys and worries are talked about at home, where the joys of children are the joys of the whole family and solutions to the worries are sought together. In such families, there are children who, as a rule, enter adult life with a sense of security and who are able to offer it to their children in the future.
However, not all children are in such families. I have been doing social work for more than 20 years. The work brought me together with families where the relationships were between parents, but often also between parents and children, bad or very bad, and where so many homes were dominated by intimate partner violence. I came into contact with children without parental care and also with sexually exploited children. And then there were the so-called bank card children. These were children who did not have financial problems, but their mothers and fathers mostly worked abroad, and sometimes older children had to be the educators of younger children. How well it went, there were grandmothers-grandfathers. However, these children lacked the most important thing – a happy childhood with a safe home, which provides security and the knowledge that the necessary help is available in case of difficulties.
There is also talk of school and internet bullying, where children need adult help, but teenagers are often ashamed to turn to their parents. A very sad story happened years ago in Viljandi, where a young man who thought he was interacting with another young man, but who was deceived by an adult pedophile and harasser, went to suicide. The young man was ashamed to tell his parents what had happened, and he found no way out but suicide. I quote Peeter Jaanson from the fresh Maaleht: “There are a number of teenagers who really need help, but do not dare to turn, do not dare to tell their parents about things. And even if you cut them off so that they have at least a chance to see a psychiatrist, it won’t improve their condition. Let us not take away opportunities from people. On the contrary. “
Neither child protection workers nor the courts are unfamiliar with situations where parents have divorced and are very ugly arguing over custody of a child. Such stories have a very serious spiritual effect on children. This year on Child Protection Day, Lemme Haldre, a Tartu pediatrician, family therapist and psychologist, received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Children and Children. He is very concerned about sexual violence between children, where older children take advantage of younger ones.
I will return to the amendment to the Psychiatric Care Act, which I submitted to the Riigikogu last December and whose first reading was in January. On June 15, the Social Committee ended nearly five months of deafening silence – together with representatives of various non-profit organizations, a child psychiatrist and the Chancellor of Justice, members discussed a bill aimed at providing treatment to young people who seek psychiatric care without parental consent. By the time of the session, the Commission had received a joint appeal from 36 youth and mental health organizations, stating that “changes that give young people additional opportunities to receive assistance should be in the interests of public health and therefore a priority for the Riigikogu.” Child suicides should be a warning to decision-makers. If in 2019 eight children went to free death, then this year there have been seven such tragic cases in the first four and a half months.
For clarification. The current law does not allow the provision of psychiatric assistance to a minor without the permission of the child’s legal representative or the court. As a rule, the involvement of parents in treatment is necessary, but there are situations where this restriction prevents children from being helped. For example, if the child is a victim of domestic violence or abuse, or if the parent is abroad or has mental health problems. The bill allows for the provision of treatment to a sufficiently mature and prudent adolescent even without parental permission. In this way, for example, a teenager suffering from depression, an eating disorder or an addiction can be helped in a timely manner. Of course, the need for treatment must be medically justified.
To the MEPs who have made incredible false allegations about the bill, I say that debate is always better than silence. And in a parliamentary country, there is a place in the plenary of the parliament where you can vote in favor or against. In the best interests of children, the law must be changed so that no one is left without the necessary treatment. I very much hope that this understanding will reach the coalition parties and that the bill will become law in the early autumn.