When Nobody Answers



Lisa writes:

On Monday, the 7th of July, I contacted the Employee Assistance service that my Company uses. After a 20-minute assessment over the phone they advised that they were unable to assist me and I should attend my GP.

After months of coping with a growing depression, and a long history of mental health issues, it had taken a lot of effort to place that phone call. Their rejection felt like a physical shot to the gut, but I made myself walk to my GP’s office.

I have tried to kill myself a handful of times in my life, and have attended A&E for self-inflicted injuries more times than I can remember. Every time I entered a hospital someone, a nurse or doctor or parent, would ask me why I didn’t just ask for help when things got too much.

So there I was, finally asking for help, like I had been instructed to do countless times before. This might not seem like much to you reader, but believe me, it took every inch of my will to walk into that doctors office. At which point my GP, after some Googling, referred me to my local mental health clinic and sent me back to work.

At this point my mother, who lives abroad, was concerned enough to contact a well-known, affordable counselling service here and arranged an assessment for me the next day. So on Tuesday I mustered my courage and went to the centre for assessment. I remember sitting in the waiting room, feeling overwrought that I was down in this hole again, but with a tiny glimmer of hope that I had sought help in time.

Alas, only moments later, I was told I was not suitable to receive counselling for my depression and suicidal ideation because I have an eating disorder. Yes reader, I have an eating disorder. In brief: I was overweight, I discovered bulimia, I lost weight and suddenly vomiting was a daily necessity I had no control over. (This is an oversimplification of the matter but enough detail for you).

To recap, I am bulimic and I am suffering from depression. I have been to my GP, who was clueless, and I have been to two counselling services that have both rejected me. Trust me when I tell you this is more effort than most depressives will exert to find help. So on Thursday, the 10th of July, I tried to hang myself.

I shall spare you the details but, in the end, one of my dogs intervened and here we are. And rest assured sceptics, this was not a cry for help; I recommend you examine exactly why you had that reaction. Other than perhaps you’re an asshole.

I returned to my GP the next day, who spent two hours trying to find someone to assess me and eventually had to send me to A&E as it was the only way they could guarantee I would see a psychiatrist. After 10 hours of sitting in a chair, crying intermittently, I spoke to a psychiatric nurse and doctor.

I told both of them I did not regret my actions the previous day, detailed my current mental state and ‘pinky’ promised I would not kill myself.

And that was it, I was given an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication and told my local mental health clinic would ring me on Monday.

So my boyfriend took me home and I spent most of the weekend crying and sleeping, both of us counting down the hours to Monday. Of course nobody called me on Monday. But surprisingly, I picked up my phone and I called them.

Over, and over…I sat at my kitchen table in my pyjamas, dialled the number, held my breath, and then sobbed when nobody answered. I tell you this not for sympathy, but so you understand just how desolate I was. A very long story, a hospital mix-up and a short sobbing phone call later and I had an appointment.

On Wednesday the 16th of July, I met with a wonderful doctor at my local clinic, I cannot stress enough that meeting someone so helpful extended my life. She recommended inpatient treatment, and referred me to public and private hospitals (based on my insurance) immediately.

I am currently at home, still waiting for a bed. I am not looking for anyone’s sympathy, I am not your concern and you surely have plenty of your own. But I have done everything I can to get help; I have an incredibly supportive boyfriend. I have health insurance; I am not a drug addict or an alcoholic. I worked full time until the day I wrapped a noose around my neck.

On Thursday I tried to cut my throat, and I haven’t kept a meal down in a week. I have started to stockpile paracetamol, because I no longer think help will come before I break.

Our mental health crisis cannot be ignored, the struggle ends silently for too many.”

If you are in need of help, these are some of the services you can contact:
Samaritans  [01 116 123].
Pieta House
Reach Out

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62 thoughts on “When Nobody Answers

  1. SunshineB

    Infuriating and heartbreaking. I’m so sorry for all you’ve endured.
    Please please please hang in there. It will get better.

  2. Eve

    This is not an isolated occurrence. Because, I too have walked into a GP, said “Hey I’m having a really tough time. I’m very depressed. I see no way out. I think all the time of killing myself. I. Need. Help.”

    Only to be told, literally (not figuratively) that there is nothing they can do. That there is no help. Services are overstretched. There’s no help. There is nothing.

    When you do the one thing you’re always told – i.e. ask for help if depressed/suicidal- and you do just that, then the shut-down is such a slap in the face. It takes *everything* to walk into that GPs office, to open your mouth or dial a phone number. When that is rejected, it is literally the extinguishment of hope and, quite often, a life.

    This country has a deep, deep problem with how it handles mental illness. It’s going to take more brave people like the OP telling their stories to make people realise how essential help is. Immediate help, not hand waving and passing the buck.

    OP, I’m so sorry that you’re that ill. I hope things turn right for you. But you are not alone in your experience of asking for help only to be repeatedly rejected and turned away. I hope, at the very least, that gives you a little comfort, that others have been there and are yet still here talking to you today.

    Never, ever give up Xx

  3. Sidewinder

    So hard to help someone who is suicidal to seek help but when you try and the door is slammed in your face? An unimaginable feeling.

    All I can say is please keep breathing. One day it will get better. Counselling and medication helps get us through to that day.

  4. A

    Please wait. I suffer from depression and anorexia. I do know how you feel.

    I know it can be impossible to bear the pain but think of those you love- they need and want you here. I do too.

    Please hold on. Maybe there is a better day waiting for us? I’m waiting too.

    1. Jerbert

      I second the wait. I like to postpone self-harm until tomorrow morning, because I don’t normally suffer depression in the mornings, and that way at least I can say to myself that it is a reasonable mind that is making the decision. This has worked for me for 20 years.

      Without it, I wouldn’t have travelled multiple times around the world, and had more than the fair share of a village of the most amazing and diverse experiences that a person can have.

      Still, there is something wrong with my head. I know it. Like Herman Hesse writes about in The Steppenwolf, I am one of the suicidals. But, you know, death will come to us. Let us just postpone it.

  5. 8den

    The entire Irish health care system is based on a crisis management system. They will not deal with a problem until it becomes unmanageable and dangerous. This extends to both physical and mental care. You will not receive help for any mental health problems until you are at the very brink of disaster, and then like then like the author of this piece it’s just “why didn’t you come to use sooner”.

    Our GPs need better training in mental health care, and need to be free at the point of entry. Asking someone who is distressed and depressed to pour out their souls to their GP for 50e a pop and may only get a SSRI prescription or a referral to a consultant that could take months (at best in both cases) is wrong.

    Our suicide rate is appalling, and we don’t have proper mental care in this country, and somone shouldn’t be finally getting offered to go to inpatient treatment after several self harm attempts.

    To the OP I applaud your honest and wish you the best. Please take care.

  6. Ceci

    There are many amazing charitable organisations who may be able to assist you in some way… Headstrong, Bodywhys, Aware, Pieta House…. Maybe a call to one of these could help. The system has failed you so far, but there’s always someone out there to listen to you and help.

  7. SDaedalus

    Your story is very sad. Depression makes someone feel so alone and treatment like this extinguishes hope by seeming like a confirmation of those feelings. But there are people like me and others who are reading and who feel for you in what you’re going through. Keep going and keep sharing. You took the first step when you asked for help. Keep asking. You are worth fighting for.

    1. Samuel

      + infinity

      You probably know this already, but telling people who can only understand by your words alone is no help. Find someone who was you and is now no longer, but ‘better’ (for want of a better word) and telling them will help, like making a road map, or path-goal theory. In a similar place, having a goal to reach helps.

  8. Grateful

    Thank you Lisa for speaking out and sharing your story. Really hope you find the help you need. You sound like someone who could make this world a better place, with your insight and understanding. You already gave. Sending love.

  9. Sharron Hughes

    My heart feels heavy with sympathy for you and how the system has failed you so far.. But hang in there. You are precious , you are loved and you are needed. Life is not easy for any of us. Nothing prepares us for the daily battles and struggles. You have people that love you dearly and need you. Try to hold in there. You are a courageous thought provoking individual. I hope you start to feel relief and that you are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Good luck my friend. Thinking of you. Xx

  10. Eg

    Please seek out the Eden program run by suicide or survive or check if your local mental health service has a DBT program or psychologist who works specifically with Suicidality. These services are designed to help people who have these types of problems. Don’t give up. See also the web page http://www.metonia.org/suicide/

  11. teal

    Thank you for your honesty. The pathway to care (mental health or otherwise) should not be so convoluted and obstructive. Please voluntarily present yourself to one of the approved psychiatric centres to which the very helpful clinician referred you, if you are feeling suicidal again. They have a duty of care to protect you from harming yourself.

    I am sorry it has been such a difficult road for you but things change and they do get better, particularly when you have demonstrated you have the strength to help yourself and to seek support when you need it. Please continue to draw on that strength and to advocate for yourself. Genuinely wishing you the best and offering hope that you will find peace of mind, in time.

  12. Am i still On this Island

    Please try Pieta house! Nobody expressing openly the feelings you are should be allowed to walk out or be hung up on by a service without assistance or support in place.

    I hope you find some light and continue to better days

    1. Murtles

      +1 on Pieta House. No referrals by GP’s/Helath Centres needed, all you need is to make (or someone on make on your behalf) one phone call. They have centres all around the country and usually an appointment is less than a week away. I know that might sound tough but from reading your piece I think you have fantastic resolve and despite your current state, you have a determination to get the help you deserve. Remain strong willed Lisa and be proud that by highlighting the shambles our Mental Health Services are in, you might help others and if everyone here was to write a simple letter to the new Minister for Health about this crisis, something might get done. Yes it may be píssing into the wind but a couple of hundred letters saying the same thing cannot be ignored and sure it’s better than shouting as PC screens in frustration.

  13. Deirdre

    Lisa your supportive boyfriend has a extremely supportive family and we are here to help and assist in any way we can. We know we are not blood relatives but you can lean on us at anytime. WE ARE HERE FOR YOU. It saddens us to be reading this because we are trying to reach out to you in anyway we know how. Let us in and we will help xxx

  14. Sinabhfuil

    Lisa, you’ve already demonstrated your huge courage by writing this. I hope that courage will see you through, and you’ll find happiness and balance. Suggestion: change your GP, and when you’re ready to, change your workplace to one whose medical help is functioning. Well done for keeping on looking for help till you found it.

  15. Ringos Dove

    You showed amazing strength and bravery to proactively make contact in seeking help, it’s just so shocking that the system reacted in he way that it did. We’re taking small strides in understanding mental health issues and something like this will damage that progress immeasurably. Makes me so sad, but having the bravery to share your story will hopefully go some way towards things changing.

  16. Moo

    Please don’t give up. I’m deeply shocked and saddened at the way you’ve been treated but please keep trying.

  17. Debra

    Sweet Heart I know what you are going through and it is the same everywhere. I am in Canada and it is still a struggle to get the appropriate card when you need it. Time is of the essence in these crises and unfortunately, the help is unavailable. Keep hanging in, please, better days are ahead. I promise.

  18. H

    Lisa, well done for highlighting the dearth of appropriate care available. Please do try one of the charities suggested and stay strong. It will get better and there is life after depression, I know just how horrible it is now but it will get better, it really will, there is light, you may not be able to see it right now from where you are but it is there and you will reach it.

  19. Haroo von Haroo

    Services are outstretched. I was very depressed last summer and was referred to my local mental health clinic . I was supposed to see a psychologist but I never saw him as the queue was so long I guess. The group recovery international is quite good. Check them out. Don’t give up. You will get better.

  20. anomanomanom

    this sounds awful but, and i know from first hand experience, so many people fake it to get drugs, prescription sleeping tablets and the likes. And it those happen, i reported a doctor for doling out tablets to a friend of mine. she’s addicted to these drugs. Now the point is people like block genuine case like this girl from getting help and doctors like the one i reported don’t seem to be able to help the real cases. The system is skewed towards quick fix solutions

  21. Jim

    “And rest assured sceptics, this was not a cry for help; I recommend you examine exactly why you had that reaction. Other than perhaps you’re an asshole”

    I was with you up until you called me an asshole

    1. Doogie

      In fairness Jim, to someone in the very depths of despair who has reached the end of her tolerance for life; to be told that her actions are a cry for help – ie, attention seeking nonsense – is a sharp slap in the face and a belittling of the intense pain she is suffering. I would think, in that state, that someone calling her an attention seeker was an asshole too. FWIW – she only directed that comment at those who thought she was attention seeking; therefore, you saying she called YOU an asshole means that you identified yourself as one of those who thought she was only doing it as a cry for help?

      Lisa, please, please hang on in there, I know it’s f’king horrendous. I know what the system is like – three months after being rushed into A&E after taking a massive overdose (which I miraculously survived; I also survived the psychiatrist in the hospital telling me I only did it because | was drunk {I got drunk to work up the courage to do it} and the lazy doctor who in passing told me I’d probably f’ked up my liver) I was assigned an OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST who insisted on a student being present at our meetings, and who presented me with cartoon pictures of Annie Aggressive and Arnie Assertive as a teaching method. I was in my 20’s, I was not a child. It was horrendously inappropriate, and I told her as I left that I’d probably attempt suicide again. She didn’t even blink.
      You can see from the responses on here that you have support in spades. Please contact one or all of the charities mentioned to help you. You are in my thoughts this evening, I sincerely hope that you get the help that you so badly need and deserve. Well done for highlighting what is a laughable excuse for a mental health service.

      1. Dough Berman

        It crossed my mind because it’s a noted phenomenon and I don’t know her from Adam and so have no reason to suppose that she really is this incredibly flukey person who’s survived multiple serious suicide attempts (including apparently being rescued from hanging by her dog?) as opposed to someone who’s issued numerous ‘cries for help’ and wants to pre-empt a charge of same – frankly, I’d be less inclined to think it was probably not in fact a serious attempt if that paragraph weren’t included.

        I also wouldn’t describe the phenomenon of ‘unserious’ suicide attempts as “attention-seeking nonsense”, by the way. They are a definite instance of suicidal ideation and a huge red flag in terms of subsequent suicide.

  22. Gorugeen

    Lisa. I understand from my own recent experience how horrendously lonely it is to be trapped in your head .Please hang in there. The loneliness may not go but help will come. I hope you are taking the meds. They take time but do help with the noise. Peace to your lovely head.

  23. Ferret McGruber

    Lisa, you have already demonstrated that you have reserves of superhuman strength in continuing to seek help when every door seems to slam in your face. My admiration for you is unbounded. Once I too was that lost soul rocking back and forth in a dark room and totally feel your pain. But there is healing to be found and I hope that you will find it, for your self, your loved ones and for all of us here who wish only the best for you.

  24. Eóin Éamon

    Lisa, I can relate so much to your story as my own experience with clinical depression and the Irish healthcare system was nearly identical. I too waited 10+ hours at A&E to see a doctor who’s advice was to make ‘life style changes’. I couldn’t get an appointment anywhere to see the appropriate doctor. If it weren’t for Trinity student health services I’d probably still be waiting.

    Do your best to stay positive and hang on. Things will get better, especially once you’re finally able to be properly treated.

  25. Niamh

    I know it’s awful Lisa- But you’re stronger, more determined and way smarter than your illness and you’ve come though so much in the past. Keep going, one day at a time. We’ll wear them down eventually. If you can, try to focus on all the people that love you very much and want to support you and help you get the care you need and deserve. Lots of hugs and kisses. Xxxx

  26. keith

    Your strength in sharing is amazing. try reading @sunnyscattered on Twitter and her blog too.

  27. Ronan

    Is there another perspective on this story? I’d love to hear from a mental health care professional. Do some patients present who cannot be helped, either because of condition they are in or their reaction to he help on offer? Is this a good example of the ‘crisis in our mental health services’?

  28. Turd Ferguson

    In fairness, tis been awful sunny out recently. Nobody likes doing work on days like that.

  29. fluffybiscuits

    Im inclined to agree with the rest of the other users on here about Ireland not doing anything until the last minute. Reminds me of the story of the person who presented at Roscommon A&E, they were under resourced and would not see the person who later committed suicide. Lisa speaking from experience as someone whom has been through this with an ex and with friends whom have had it, you have made the right choices. Early intervention will allow you to get the support you need, and indeed you have made the hardest decision, doing something about it. Nothing much else I can say that is going to help you as Im not a medical professional other than there are people that love you and that you are never ever alone in this world. Im sincerely wishing you the best of luck and perhaps you might let us know how you are getting on .

  30. Lucianne

    Lisa, I know that words of sympathy/advice can go in one ear and out the other at this time. I know that your life feels like it is filled with only darkness. I know that the only thoughts taking up every minute of every day are about food, your weight and how you can’t imagine a life without these thoughts but you don’t want to live like this.

    I am not a qualified health professional nor a doctor but one thing I am qualied in is experience. I suffered a longstanding battle again Bulimia for 10 years, from the ages of 15-25 roughly. The thought of suicide most definitely crossed my mind, I often thought that it would be much easier not having to deal with the issue or that it just wouldn’t be possible to ever get over it, however I never thought about it seriously enough to ever attempt to take my own life. I did completely isolate myself from my family and friends, I didn’t want to tell them about it because no one could understand what I was going through anyway.

    In the end, all was uncovered by a friend of mine who informed my mum (I am still so grateful to her), I didn’t have the courage you have to say it myself !! From that moment on, it was all about recovery, but believe me, I tried lots of different psychotherapists, counsellors and a stint on the Eating Disorder (ED) programme in St. Patrick’s mental hospital (but walked out after 2 weeks because of how disgraceful it was). When I had the final meeting with the Doctor who ran the Eating Disorder programme, I told him exactly what I thought of it – he told me that I’d just wasted my last chance and I would never get over my bulimia.

    I don’t mean to harp on about myself Lisa, but I wanted you to see what I went through, 10 years of fighting the little voice in my head, who knows how many counsellors/psychotherapists and then I found the Marino Therapy Centre (http://www.marinotherapycentre.com/). What made this place different to any other was that all of the counsellors had been through an ED themselves, something which instantly made me feel that they knew what I was going through. Bodywhys weren’t around back then, but I have done fundraising for them and they are also wonderful (http://www.bodywhys.ie/).

    It’s a long, long road, of that there is no doubt!! It is a difficult one but it is possible, there is the right kind of help to suit you out there. I know that it’s hard to think that when you’ve been pushed away from so many clinics, etc. and because of the state of the Mental Health system in Ireland but you will find a counsellor/psychologist/centre that will suit your recovery perfectly.

    I am now 35 years old and have been bulimia-free for almost the same amount of time as I was bulimic. Getting over Bulimia has made me the person I am today and I feel so lucky that I have had a second chance to experience life without it and so glad I made the choice to fight it.

    I know you will too Lisa. Sending you lots of love and light,

    1. Lisa

      Thank you for sharing your story with me Lucianne, it gives hope that the bulimia can be beaten. Unfortunately I cannot afford the Marino Centre at this time, I shall have to hope that St Patricks has improved their services since then. x

      1. Lucianne

        Hi Lisa,

        Thank you for replying to me. I am so glad that you have hope that this can be beaten because it can, it really can, I promise. The depression can also be beaten – the way I see it, EDs and Depression are both symptoms of underlying mental health issues. Once we figure out what is going on in our minds and why we have these issues, we can then start to deal with them and slowly but surely, learn how live without the symptoms.

        Through a lot of my bulimia recovery I was either out of work or on a salary that barely got me through the week so I know how you feel and how frustrating it can be. I told my counsellors/psychotherapists that I couldn’t afford them and some of them offered a cheaper rate per session, perhaps you could do the same. I just had a look on the Bodywhys website and they say “N.B. Low cost counselling: If cost is a problem, this should be mentioned when making enquiries as some of the databases include details on sliding scales, low cost options or payment on the basis of a donation” – you could ask them about that?

        Have you tried Group Sessions? I found them very helpful at times. It made me realise that there are people who actually did understand how I was feeling in that very moment. Generally they are not too expensive either?

        It’s hard to bear the “your health is your wealth” saying in mind when you simply can’t afford to pay for these sessions and it is something that really gets to me as I truly believe that saying and that EVERYONE should be entitled to instant care under these critical circumstances, not just those who have money.

        Please do keep in touch and let me know when you get a date for St. Patricks – I am sure that things have improved since I was there as that is over 10 years ago now.

        Stay strong Lisa,
        Lucianne x

  31. A

    Lucianne – well done on your post. Eating disorders add a complex dimesnion to any mental health problem. They are so specific.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us here.

  32. Dez

    hi Lisa, could you come on here every day ( I know some days you wont want to ) and give us an update on how things are progressing? Writing how you are feeling and sharing that, some people find that it helps it will also highlight problems and maybe some people here can assist you with this. Dont give up. You are a low point, you wont always be.

    You are not on your own. Speak out.


  33. SunshineB

    Totally agree Dez – Lisa have been thinking of you today and wondering how you’re feeling. Hoping today’s been a better day x

  34. Darcy

    Lisa, in your searingly wrenching way, you have articulated the fear, desperation and strength in succumbing to and fighting a prisonous sickness unimaginable to most. I hope you see the value in this and understand that the system that failed you, by association has failed us. “So hold on when there is nothing in you, except the will which says…hold on”

  35. Lisa

    Thank you all for your kind comments and supportive words. Sadly I have nothing to update you with, other than my continued existence I suppose. I am still at home waiting for a bed to become available, and spend most of my day sleeping off the mild tranquilizers they prescribed for whenever I fell too overwrought.

    If I could address two things before you become too sick of my ramblings:

    Many of you have recommended Pieta House to me. Unfortunately Pieta House does not treat eating disorders, they were the second place I went to looking for help and they turned me away because of the bulimia. They did ring me with the number for Bodywhys, who can now only man a helpline for 2 hours a day, and a private center in Dublin specifically for eating disorders that I could not afford. I have been advised that because eating disorders are so specific many counselors and counseling centers will not treat them. I can only assume that I am not the only person with an ED who doesn’t have a lot of disposable income at this time so I wanted to highlight this gap in services.

    My dog did not directly save my life, his lack of opposable thumbs and the fact that he is a complete moron make this impossible. He did indirectly save my life, but out of respect for my family who I know can see this, I will not go into further details of what happened that night. I just don’t want anyone thinking I am hiding the new Lassie in my house when he could be out rescuing people from wells.


    1. James

      Hi Lisa, good to see an update but sorry that you’re still being made to wait. The gaps across the board in services across the board for mental healthcare are absolutely shocking. Having heard some of the bureaucratic crap people are put through at Aware meetings, I’m again furious to see what’s happening to you. Anyway, all the best and I hope you can take away some positives from the support here.

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