Mental Health Treatment

In some jurisdictions, minors can give consent for mental health treatment or for residential shelter services if a doctor or clinician decides that they are mature enough to participate in these treatment services and that there is potential risk of physical or mental harm without the treatment. If a minor who is admitted to the emergency room or to a medical or surgical floor requests a psychiatric consult but asks that parents not be informed, the minor may be granted the consult.

In general, there is a greater legal and clinical reluctance to override the request of a 16- or 17-year-old than that of a younger minor. The threshold to obtain consent for a consult should differ from that required for ongoing treatment. When performing the assessment, however, the mental health consultant should try to understand the motivation behind the child's request not to have parents involved in the consult, as well as the possible consequences. The treating therapist should try to open lines of communication between the child and the parents or to involve the parents in treatment unless the provider decides that such involvement is inappropriate.

In some states, a voluntary application for psychiatric hospitalization can be made by a child age 16 or older or by the parent or guardian of a child under age 18. If a minor is unwilling to be hospital ized, a voluntary application for hospitalization can be made by parents without a court hearing. In some jurisdictions, minors age 16 or older can sign themselves out after 72 hours' written notice unless they are involuntarily committed. Two standards must be met for such a commitment to occur: the child 1) must be determined to be mentally ill and 2) must be either a danger to self or to others or show an inability to care for self.

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