Tag Archives: Mental Health

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Niall Breslin, aka Bressie, before the Joint Committee on Health and Children in January

Fiona Kennedy, who has clinical depression and borderline personality disorder, yesterday wrote the following on the Facebook page of her Sunny Spells & Scattered Showers blog:

I AM SICK OF HEARING ABOUT BRESSIE AND JIM BREEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They aren’t actually the only people in the entire country who understand mental health issues. Also, as an aside, depression isn’t the only mental health issue that affects people, and it’s not just young people who experience difficulties either. Despite what the media may think.

There. I said it.

(I’ve had a very long day, I’m very tired and my patience threshold is below zero)

Later, Fiona wrote:

That was an hour ago. I’m even more tired now, but having driven in and out of town to collect Hubby, I’m also wired, and I’ve had time to think.

On reflection, there is a whole lot more going on than simply being pissed off at two people who are doing one of the most crucial thing that needs doing to get the ball rolling on changing our mental health services – talking. Raising awareness. Letting people know that asking for help is ok.

But that’s where I hit a pitfall, and I think that’s at least part of where my frustration is coming from. It’s not what Bressie and Jim Breen are doing that’s the issue, it’s the media portrayal of it.

Both of them are talking about what they know, and they are both authentic, articulate, inspiring speakers. But what they know is a small piece of the puzzle.

The media (and this is all very much just my own opinion) can’t or won’t see beyond that. Mental illness isn’t just depression and suicide, in as much as physical illness isn’t just cancer. There are such a broad range of issues, and within that range, hugely varying degrees of severity and need. Every single person is different.

We could also be forgiven for thinking that difficulties only arise with the under 25s. Again, I’m not discounting the value of the work that’s being done here, god knows if I’d had more awareness when I was younger then things might have turned out very differently for me.

We absolutely need to get to kids when they’re in school, we absolutely need to work on breaking down the stigma around mental illness. I would love to think that this whole palaver with our mental health services is something my kids will never have to contend with.

But what about those who are over 25? Or even over 18? I posted a piece last week by a 17-year-old reader who faces a very uncertain future once she turns 18 and transitions from child and adolescent to adult services.

What about those of us who are that bit older, who aren’t hearing the message in school or college? Or those who don’t have ready access to social media? What about workplace mental health? Or those who aren’t working? And what about our older generations? Who is the voice for them?

I think that’s what my issue is. Both these men are giving voice to a particular section of the population, and they are doing it quite remarkably well. But, (and again, just me!!) there are two key issues with this:

  • This is a very sanitized version of mental illness,
  • There’s a glaring gap when it comes to the rest of us.

One of my readers posted this comment in response to my little rant, I think he sums it up nicely:

‘Thanks for saying this, Fiona. We are doing a mental health awareness programme at work and it is just about depression. Yes depression is a terrible thing but so are BPD, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, and every other mental illness. Surely we wouldn’t talk in terms of physical illness as being cancer? So why treat mental illness differently?’

‘As for celebs being the spokesperson for mental health, fine. But I would rather have as my spokesperson the woman who sat in the psychiatrist’s waiting room the other day; who had to bring her young child to the appointment because she couldn’t afford childcare; who told me how she had no idea how she was going to pay the electricity bill, let alone find money to do the grocery shopping; who was trying her hardest but who looked as if life had finally beaten her. This is the real face of mental illness’

Maybe it’s even more than that. Is it how we talk about it? The fact that we talk about ‘mental illness’. We would never say ‘I have a physical illness’. We’d say ‘I have the flu’. We’re making huge inroads in talking about it, but we’re still dancing around the edges.

I don’t know, I don’t know where I’m going at this stage. I’m tired, and I’m hugely frustrated by everything that’s happened with our mental health services on a national level, particularly in the last week, and on a personal level, for the last……….well, long time.

I just want to see open, honest, real conversation about this. About depression. About bipolar. About borderline. About schizophrenia. About all the other countless illnesses that affect us.

About people.

Mental health and the media (Sunny spells and scattered showers)

Fiona Kennedy on Broadsheet

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This lunchtime.

Mental health campaigners join members of the Students Union of Ireland and Mental Health Reform outside the Dáil.

The demonstration follows recent reports that €12million of the €35million mental health budget will be transferred to other areas in the Department of Health.

Via Gavan Reilly and Lust for Life

UPDATE:

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The speech delivered by Shane Gillen during the demonstration.

Thanks Shane

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Marie Duffy is extremely frustrated with how the Irish mental health service works and would like to see it completely overhauled.

She writes…

About 18 months ago I got sick. Very sick. I ended up in hospital, and was to stay there for almost nine months. I was embarrassed and ashamed and felt that I couldn’t tell anyone where I was.

I told some people I was on holidays, others that I was away for work. But the truth was that I was on a psychiatric ward fighting for my life. I say fighting because that’s what I felt I was doing.

It all happened rather quickly. One minute I was bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding and the next thing I was inpatient on an acute psychiatric ward. It all happened so fast and in a number of weeks I unravelled in spectacular style.

At first I was afraid. I was so afraid of the thoughts that were going on in my head that I didn’t tell anyone. I kept it to myself. I’m very lucky and have great friends and family but couldn’t find the words to tell them how I was feeling so as far as they were concerned I was fine. But I wasn’t.

I was far from fine and was in such a bad place that I just couldn’t find the words to explain how I was feeling. I believed that I would be better off dead and that my friends and family would be better off without me.

I was ashamed that I was in hospital and that I wasn’t coping.

Over the course of the nine months my doctor tried me on loads of different types of medications. Nothing seemed to take away the deep feeling of despair I was feeling every moment I was awake and that haunted my dreams at night.

Despite being quite articulate normally, I just couldn’t find the words to describe to anyone what I was feeling. I was hopeless. I felt like I was never going to get better and most of all I felt abandoned in hospital while my friends and family and everyone else went about their lives.

Nine months is a long time in anyone’s life. But nine months on a psychiatric ward is unbearable and feels like a lifetime.

There is little to do during the day with just one hour devoted to occupational therapy or activities such as meditation, art, or yoga. The rest of the time was spent sitting on your bed or sitting on the chair beside your bed.

The only regular thing on the ward was the giving out of the medication at breakfast, lunch and night time. We’d all queue up in a line eager to get our next fix of drugs.

During my stay in hospital I was put on a waiting list to see a psychologist. During my nine months there I did not speak to a counsellor, psychologist or anyone about how I was feeling.

Because my depression wasn’t responding to medication my psychiatrist talked about the possibility of trying Electric Shock Treatment (ECT).

Thankfully I didn’t try ECT, but I very nearly did as I was eager to try anything that would help me get my life back again.

At the moment I am attending a psychologist but have only five more sessions left. I understand that appointments are limited due to long waiting lists, but at the same time I know that I will need support after the five sessions.

My experience of the mental health services over the past 18 months is that it is trying to .

As a service user I am extremely frustrated as to how the Irish mental health service works. I think it needs to be totally revolutionised. We need to start by helping people recover from mental illness, instead of patching them up and sending them out until the next time.

There is such stigma associated with mental illness and even though things are much better than they used to be I feel that we still have a long way to go.

I feel that we need to talk openly about mental health and start to look at people with mental difficulties as ‘us’ instead of the ‘other’.

We need to have a more recovery focused mental health service. I am trying everything in my power to ensure that I don’t end up in a situation that I’m extremely unwell and taking my own life seems like an option again. But I will say that it’s difficult especially when the supports aren’t always there.

To start with we need to provide adequate funding for mental health services that both focuses on early intervention and recovery.

I also feel that we need an authority that tackles suicide prevention like the Road Safety Authority does for road safety.

One suicide is one too many and although there is good work being done in the area of suicide prevention its not enough. We can do more!

I believe that we can reduce the high number of suicides in Ireland. It’s time we all came together and used our collective voices to let people know that suicide doesn’t have to be an option.

We need to let people know that it’s ok not to be ok and it’s perfectly ok to have to ask for help.

Samaritans: 116 123

Pieta House: 01 6010 000

Console: 1800 201 890

Aware: 1890 303 302

You can read Marie Duffy’s blog here

Previously: Reach Out

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Various ArtistsLe Chéile (compilation in aid of mental health awareness)

What you may need to know…

01. Yeah Meng Records is the one-man operation of Drogheda man Ryan Carroll. Indie label, local shows, etc. based out of the Wee County’s capital.

02. Le Chéile (“together” as Gaeilge), is a compilation released this past month through the label, comprised of a book of mental health-related quotes & quips (as well as contact info on mental health services in Ireland), and a CD full of Irish and international punk, emo and folk acts (streaming above).

03. Among the many acts on the compilation include Dublin punks Chewing on Tinfoil, post-rock youngsters Megacone, Tipperary emo five-piece The Winter Passing and Limerick singer-songwriter Anna’s Anchor.

04. All proceeds go toward various mental health charities, and Bandcamp orders (€10 + €3 postage in Ireland) come with advance digital download of both audio and text.

Verdict: It’s our generation’s cause: striking up a conversation and national discourse regards mental health. Anybody looking to help facilitate that, and provide a point of focus for anyone that might be struggling in the form of the accompanying book, deserves the support.

Le Chéile (thru Yeah Meng Records)

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From the The Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association (IRUPA) in partnership with Zurich

Tackle Your Feelings.

A new mental wellbeing campaign that sees “national and international rugby stars come forward to tell their own personal story of the issues they have faced off the pitch”.

Emma Walsh, of IRUPA writes:

Munster Scrum-Half, Cathal Sheridan is one of the first players to come forward and tell his own personal story [more at link below].

Tackle Your Feelings

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Marie Duffy

For the week that’s in it.

Marie Duffy, who lived with Bulimia for seven years, writes:

I was 17 the first time I made myself sick. It was Christmas time and I was on a diet. I was planning on going Debs dress shopping in the January sales and I was dreading it. I’ve never been a skinny girl and the idea of going shopping filled me with dread.

I was convinced that the only way to ensure I got a dress to fit was to starve myself in the few months beforehand. It was going well and I had dropped over a stone through a combination of eating more healthily and exercise.

However, I found the temptation of food at Christmas to be difficult. I ate some Roses. Even when I was eating them I knew that I shouldn’t be. I had made a list of foods that were ok to eat and stuff that I couldn’t have and chocolate was definitely on the ‘not eat’ list.

I felt so guilty. I immediately ran to the bathroom, locked the door and forced my fingers down my throat. I had to be rid of the evil calories that were in my body. Very naively, I felt like I had found the secret to losing weight fast. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Little was I to know that making myself sick was to become a huge part of my life and would become an addiction that I would struggle with for seven years of my life. Seven years that I couldn’t get back, and seven years of absolute torture.

Often when we hear or think about eating disorders we see the more extreme cases of anorexia were people are literally dying at 3 or 4 stone weight.

But, the fact is, that people all around you are coping with eating disorders and are a much more normal weight, and you might never even know that they are struggling.

That was the case for me, I was a normal weight but my behaviours around food became far from normal. I was obsessed with everything that I ate. I would be so strict with myself during the day allowing myself to live on very little.

Sometimes, if I was feeling generous, I would allow myself an apple and that would do me for breakfast and lunch until I went home from school. I would be filled with absolute dread at the thought of going home to eat a dinner and would start obsessing about it each day, from the minute I woke up.

My parents and siblings had no idea that I was struggling with bulimia, they had noticed that I had become very picky about what I was eating but that was as much as they knew.

I only ate vegetables or small amounts of chicken and avoided carbohydrates if I could. If I did eat carbohydrates, I felt so guilty that I would rush to the toilet immediately and make myself sick. It was my secret and no-one else knew. But it began to become a secret that I just couldn’t keep to myself.

I began to lose a lot of weight and people began to comment telling me how well I looked. People at school would make comments and I would shrug them off saying that I was exercising more and that the weight was coming off healthily.

But, before long, my friends started to become suspicious they knew I wasn’t eating lunch and was suspicious that I wasn’t eating dinner either. They also knew that I was tired all the time, and was becoming more obsessive about calories and what I ate.

Teachers at school also began to notice that I wasn’t doing aswell as I had been and I started to not hand in my homework and fall asleep in class.

In reality I had a full-blown eating disorder and it was taking over my life. But it wasn’t until one of the teachers at school made an appointment for me to visit my GP that I realised what was going on.

My GP asked me lots of questions about what I was eating and asked about my attitude to food and weight. I told him that I had been making myself sick and had started to use laxatives to help me lose weight.

He mentioned the word Bulimia and I was taken aback. I knew that I had become a little obsessed with food and how I felt about my body but I felt that an eating disorder was something very skinny people got, and I wasn’t very skinny.

However, the doctor explained to me that people off all weights and sizes developed eating disorders and that he felt that my behaviours indicated that I had bulimia.

My teacher at the time was concerned about me and invited my parents in for a meeting to discuss what was going on. I was absolutely terrified because my parents had no idea as to the extent of my dieting behaviour. As far as they were concerned I was on a diet but what teenager wasn’t.

My mum was really upset when she found out what had been going on and life at home became difficult for me as my family monitored everything I ate and when I used the bathroom. I became more secretive about what I ate and when and my family became more confused as to how to help me.

Fast forward a year and I did well in my Leaving Certificate and got into college. When I went to college my eating disorder got much worse as I had no one monitoring what I was eating or when I used the bathroom.

My weight fluctuated. While I was still at school I was referred to a psychologist but it wasn’t until almost two years later that my appointment came up. I often wonder if my life would have been different if I had received the appointment two years earlier when I really needed it. Instead my eating disorder became a huge part of my life and stayed with me all throughout college.

Fast forward to today and I still struggle with my weight. I wouldn’t say I have an eating disorder anymore but when I’m stressed I still revert back to old habits which can be difficult to deal with. Bulimia was a huge part of my life for 7 years.

If I could say one thing to anyone who is going through a similar thing I would say – take a risk and reach out for help. You may not get it straight away but you deserve to be happy and you cannot be truly happy when you struggle with an eating disorder.

I would really recommend Bodywhys as a support service and they have email, telephone and online support which can really help when you are struggling.

If I could say one thing to that 17-year-old who first made themselves sick I would say – you are more than your weight and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Also, I would remind myself that you don’t have to be skinny to have an eating disorder as it can affect anyone of any age.

Bodywhys

You don’t have to be skinny to have an eating disorder (Marie Duffy, Fake Tan And Foundation)

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Fiona Kennedy

You may recall how Fiona Kennedy, who has clinical depression and borderline personality disorder, wrote a piece last Wednesday.

It detailed how, after waiting eight months to begin dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) at the Adult Mental Health Services at Galway University Hospital, the mother-of-two was told the treatment would not be provided because of a lack of resources at the hospital.

On Friday, Fiona, from Connemara, Co. Galway, launched a crowd funding campaign to allow her access DBT.

Well.

Within 24 hours, she received enough money to fund almost a year of private therapy.

Further to this, Fiona has written the following open letter to all general election candidates.

Dear Candidates,

I did something yesterday that I never, in a million years, would have considered I’d have to do. I went looking for money from complete strangers. Why? Because of the phenomenal shambles that is our public mental health service.

I have borderline personality disorder (BPD) and depression, and have been blogging about both for years now. I have a good following on Facebook, and have received an unbelievable level of support from both platforms over the years, particularly during the last few months which have been incredibly tough.

Last week, I was told that a treatment that has been promised for months by the HSE (dialectical behaviour therapy/DBT) will not be going ahead. I can’t begin to describe the impact that this had on me, and on my family.

We had pinned all our hopes on this, as I have tried every other avenue I could to get to grips with BPD. We’re out of options, the only alternative left is to access private therapy.

The cost of attending a private clinical psychologist is immense, and it’s money that I simply do not have – I’ve been attending public services for years for a reason.

We found a psychologist who is able to offer exactly what I’m looking for, and has the capacity to take me on now, but there’s the not-so-insignificant factor of fees to be considered. After a lot of soul searching, we decided to try crowdfunding.

The response to this has been phenomenal.

In less than 24 hours, I’ve been given enough to fund almost a year of private therapy. The generosity of those who have donated has left me absolutely speechless.

This will quite literally change my life, and that of my family, it’s just incredible. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I genuinely feel like I’m going to be able to get a handle on all this.

My husband looks brighter than I’ve seen him in years. This money will give us so much more than just therapy, it will give us back our future.

However, while I’m beyond grateful, I’m also really angry. I should never have been put in the position of having to ask for money.

Treatment was promised, time and again, by the HSE. It’s such an indictment of our health services that this is how it has turned out, and at a time when we’re constantly hearing about keeping the recovery going. Mere days from the election, promises are still being broken.

I also realise how lucky I am to have been able to raise this money – between the blog and Facebook, I have people who are very familiar with my situation ready to help in any way they can.

What about the others who were promised DBT? What are they going to do? And this is just one programme, in one area. How many other programmes won’t be going ahead? How many other people are waking up today feeling like they have no hope left, no future?

If you’ve never felt that, you can’t begin to understand how terrifying it is, and I’m glad for those of you who just can’t identify with it. But for those who can – what will be done? Mental health is way down the priority list of so many of you, but this is not something that can be ignored any longer.

People are dying. When you’re already hanging on by your fingernails and hope is taken away, it’s far too easy to let go. This has got to stop.

Services have got to be more than just improved, they have to be completely overhauled. The way forward is clear, Mental Health Reform have done huge work in highlighting the changes that are needed. Why has it proven so impossibly hard to make those changes happen? What else will it take?

You have the opportunity now to make a real, lasting difference. There is so much kindness and energy in the country, people not only want to see change, they want to be part of making it happen.

So please, please, for all our sakes, and even more so for those who’ve been left struggling alone, do what needs doing.

Yours sincerely, and on behalf of everyone who needs help,

Fiona

Those who wish can donate to Fiona’s fund here or read her blog here

Previously: ‘I Have A Headache From Crying’

Facebook Update

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 Patrick outside Gandon House

The new anti-homeless bars  erected outside of the Department of Social Protection’s offices in Gandon House, Amien Street, Dublin ensure those who used to sleep there can no longer do so.

Gráinne O’Sullivan writes:

This is my brother Patrick settling down to sleep  on Saturday] outside Gandon House. He is a rough sleeper, he is not addicted to drugs or alcohol but has mental health issues. He was evicted from the HSE last March after 22 years as a long-stay patient with severe and enduring mental illness.

As they were planning to evict him, his 22-year long diagnosis of schizophrenia was changed to personality disorder. If this is the case then was he was held unlawfully for all those years, against his will?

When he was evicted, he was given a piece of paper to contact emergency accommodation but he wasn’t even registered as homeless and could not access a bed. He lived with my family but it didn’t last due to his complex mental health needs. He is barred from many emergency hostels and, as a result, is sleeping on the streets.

Since his eviction he is a different person, he is in utter distress. He is institutionalised and extremely vulnerable and has attempted suicide. There has been a massive deterioration in him as he stopped taking his medication and is extremely paranoid and aggressive. His mental health has never been as bad.

He has a mild intellectual disability and has limited basic life skills. He went from 24/7 nursing care to the streets. A DCC social worker assessment carried out since his eviction reported he is unsuitable for supported community accommodation let alone independent living.

As a family we are heartbroken and sick with worry. He’s at massive risk and our fear is he will end up dead soon. We worry constantly about him and his whereabouts.

We have tried everything we can think of to help him and are getting nowhere. I made a complaint to the HSE and their response was that he is receiving the highest level of care in the community – so the picture above is the highest level of mental healthcare in the community, according to them.

We have tried many times, and recently again, to get him admitted to have his mental health stabilised and back on medication. His GP said he was psychotic and wanted to admit him but his psychiatrist changed the GP’s mind when he rushed down with my brother’s file and said my brother was having withdrawals from alcohol.

He was then turned away from Beaumont A&E and refused admission as when they contacted his psychiatrist, he told them he has no mental illness, but the psychiatrist in Beaumont would not see him without three security guards present. He had a drug and alcohol test done in Beaumont which came back negative.

The Government closed the large institutions and did not open anything in the community to cater for the needs of people like my brother.

How many others are in a similar situation – where they say they have no mental illness in order to discharge them and put them onto the streets?

Many people and agencies in the community have told me there are many identical cases to that of my brother. An investigation needs to be carried out.

He is suffering everyday and is unable to cope due to this neglect. If anything happens to him, the HSE will be responsible. He has a right to treatment for his mental health and shouldn’t be punished for it.

Please share and raise awareness.

Gráinne O’Sullivan (Facebook)

Previously: Turned Away

An Avoidable Death

Fighting Demons

Thanks Anne

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Aidan O’Connell

Aidan O’Connell writes:

I have been diagnosed with GAD (generalised anxiety disorder), depression, OCD, borderline personality disorder, somatic illness, social anxiety disorder and panic attack disorder – all separately over the course of the 15 years.

I have doctor shopped and seen over a dozen-plus GPs, at my worst seeing multiple doctors on the same day. I have also seen multiple psychiatrists, again possibly over a dozen. That’s why there is a cluster of diagnoses above, “Doctors differ, and patients suffer”.

I am under the care of one professional now and have GAD, some elements of OCD and possibly some personality traits.

Yesterday Fiona Kennedy wrote about DBT and the lengthy period of time that people have to wait before they get help in Ireland’s public mental healthcare system.

I have experienced nothing but frustration.

I initially saw a consultant psychiatrist, to whom I was explaining my situation, when he said, “Time’s up, we will carry on next week”, before he wrote a prescription for an anti-depressant without even giving me a diagnosis.

Surely, he should have managed his time, so that, on first consultation he could at least have given me a diagnosis or a plan. In addition, throughout the session, he kept calling me “squire” and when I spoke of an incident in work, he said, “why didn’t you use a load of expletives and tell them ‘where to go?'” I didn’t return. This was a private appointment.

Next up was an appointment on the public side. I saw a registrar and not a consultant. During the course of the appointment, he chewed gum and took a mobile phone call. He then left me alone for an age and said, “The consultant would normally see you, but he is run off his feet”.

What he didn’t know was I had Googled who I was supposed to see and I saw him chatting at the reception counter a few feet from where I was sitting. The registrar then came back with a script for another anti-depressant, albeit a different one to the one referred to above.

Another stand-out appointment (this time on the private side) was with a consultant who, upon entering his room, showed me his qualifications on the wall, the Lancet magazine on his desk and made sure I knew he didn’t take credit cards.

A short while after the appointment began, he said, “I have the answer, Largactil. We need to get your sleep right in the first place and this will solve that.”

He didn’t tell me that this medication is over 50 years old and has been long left behind because of the dreadful side-effects.

I saw a consultant psychiatrist privately who smelled of cigarettes and spoke in a very, very soothing voice unless there was a disagreement and he lost his temper. The same man threatened to sue a girl I know for a comment on Twitter where she recalled a bad experience and mentioned his name.

Within minutes of meeting me, he told me I had Borderline Personality Disorder and we would have to engage in long-term DBT sessions. The problem for me, apart from the cost, was that, unbeknownst to me, he put me on an anti-psychotic drug and increased the dosage 14-fold until I tapered down and got away. I have never lost the five stone I gained on those drugs. I still need to lose this weight and I am desperate to lose it.

I am under the care of a great guy now. He’s a fantastic human being and a fantastic doctor. I admire him, his intelligence, his calmness, and his view that “less is more” in terms of medication.

He also regularly congratulates me on my defeat of alcohol and gambling. Regretfully, I still have some demons to beat. He will assist me though and I have no want nor urge to do either.

I am seeing this consultant psychiatrist privately but it’s not necessary to pay on the day of an appointment and he will see people at times of crises.

The experiences I have had are so mixed. But I firmly believe less is more in regards to medication and I do firmly believe that DBT is the answer to personality disorders (I hate the word disorder and I hate the word disability!)

I now write in reference to Dual Diagnosis – something I have had experience with in the past – following on from the death of Caoilte O Broin.

It’s astonishing that a lot of mental health services and addiction treatment centres in Ireland don’t treat people suffering with depression, anxiety or psychosis if they are also drinking and I believe the tragic case of Caoilte O Broin needs to change things in Ireland in 2016.

It’s totally inconceivable that there wasn’t more done for Caoilte. Why, when he was in such distress, did he have to fight his battle against his demons on his own?

Bearing in mind Caoilte’s experiences were related to the public system, we are all left wondering how and why wasn’t more done?

Aidan blogs at The Truth Wins. His Twitter handle is @AidanTruthWins

Previously: An Avoidable Death

Caoilte’s Story Is Not Uncommon

Turned Away

Access To Mental Health Services