Teens ‘should be able to keep treatment secret’

Teenagers in vulnerable family situations must be given the chance to seek help from psychiatric services without their parents being informed, Sweden's largest children's charity has demanded.

Some youngsters in Sweden are not getting the treatment they need from psychiatric services because they do not dare to tell doctors about difficult family situations. Currently, parents are often invited to participate in treatment sessions or are informed afterwards about what their children have said.

The demand for change comes in a study from Bris about young people’s experiences of child psychiatry services in Sweden. The study is based on an analysis of 339 emails and documented phone calls to Bris last year. The young people were all between 13 and 18 and the majority were girls.

“Young people do not trust the person giving treatment because they themselves do not have the right to decide over secrecy,” Bris’s secretary general Göran Harnest and the study’s author Karin Johansson wrote in a joint article in Dagens Nyheter on Monday.

The pair argue that youth psychiatry services should be able to use the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child and Swedish privacy laws to ensure that young people are granted the right to secrecy. They also call on Sweden’s government to review the rules governing the rights of children and young people in the healthcare system.