An Avoidable Death



Caoilte O Broin, who was found in the River Liffey on January 2, after going missing on December 29, 2015

You may recall an anonymous article published on, entitled ‘My brother says he wants to kill my family and no one can help us‘ in early December.

The piece was written by Catriona O Broin about her brother Caoilte, who suffered from mental health problems and extreme psychosis for several years.

He was found dead in the River Liffey on January 2.

In yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, the paper’s health editor Susan Mitchell reported:

Catriona said the family made numerous efforts to engage with Caoilte’s psychiatrist, but were unsuccessful. They repeatedly tried to have him committed. They were unsuccessful in that too. Caoilte refused in-patient care and they were left powerless.

Catriona said a key problem they encountered was the difficulty in getting care for someone with a dual diagnosis like Caoilte.

Dual diagnosis is the terms used when a person suffers from both a substance abuse problem and another mental health issue such as depression or an anxiety disorder. Catriona said that because Caoilte drank heavily, the doctor insisted that nothing could be done to help him. But he drank “because he was in pain”, she said.

Dual Diagnosis Ireland said most mental health services in Ireland will not treat both conditions. For example, if you have difficulties abstaining from alcohol due to  depression, you cannot enter most rehabilitation services. Yet you cannot get your depression treated until your addition to alcohol has been addressed.

“It’s a postcode lottery depending on where you live or whether you have private health insurance,” said Carol Moore, co-founder of the charity Dual Diagnosis Ireland.

Eighty-five per cent of people with an alcohol addiction also had a mental health problem; yet the vast majority cannot access the mental health service.”

The O Broin family are angry at a mental health service they believe failed them – and their brother.

“His death marks the end of a mental health battle lasting many years and punctuated by repeated failure of the HSE to provide adequate help, as well as outright refusal to listen to or cooperate with our family’s appeals for support. I fully believe their brazen negligence played a role on several levels in his ultimately avoidable death,” wrote Caoilte’s brother Daniel on his Facebook page.

The HSE is aware of this story. In a statement, it said, “We take the death of anyone known to our services very seriously. For reasons of privacy, we don’t comment on individual cases.”

The Samaritans 116 123 (free)
Console 1800 247 247

A family’s tragedy: We told HSE our brother would kill himself (Sunday Business Post)

My brother says he wants to kill my family and no one can help us (

Thanks Shane Gillen

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24 thoughts on “An Avoidable Death

  1. Starina

    unbelievable, willful neglect by the powers that be — it’s basic knowledge that alcohol and drugs are a form of self-medication in this sort of situation; you’re not going to have much luck fixing the physical symptoms if the psychological problems are left untreated.

    this poor guy and his family.

    1. cluster

      Is that really true about ‘dual diagnosis’? That’s an absolute disgrace, if so.

      What does the HSE have to say for itself?

      1. GMcD

        Yes its true. For many years now nurses are being trained in dual diagnosis either in courses outside or while in college however unfortunately our hands are tied due to lack of funding in this area.

  2. ahjayzis

    Met him a few times, friend of a friend. Seemed like a really nice, genuine, fiercely intelligent guy. Had no idea he had his troubles. RIP and thoughts with the family.

  3. PG

    Deeply saddened to hear of Caoilte’s passing, may he rest in peace. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

    1. Bonkers

      You would hope so, they cried out for help and didn’t get it. Something is seriously amiss.

      RIP Caoilte

  4. Eoin

    It’s a terrible thing to suffer from any mental health issue. And nobody should, in this day and age, be left with no options like this poor man. I’ve had friends in and out of mental health facilities in Ireland over the last 10 years. They’ve described the mental health care system here as ‘medieval’.

    1. scottser

      the best analogy about our mental health service is if you present with a cold, you’re told to come back when you have pneumonia.

  5. Clampers Outside!

    This is tragic.

    Addiction centres were set up to deal with addiction. They were not set up to deal with mental health issues, and yes dual, triple and even quadruple issues are a growing problem among people from reporting for help. But it is a back to roots solutions that is needed, a reorganisation of services at a base level to include a service to deal with those reporting multiple issues.

    You cannot shove a person suffering from multiple issues that include depression and anxiety into an addiction centre, just because you think that is right for them. It could, and can, impact the recovery of other addicts working hard on themselves to recover who are not suffering multiple issues.

    Addiction recovery has a 35-40% success rate, and that’s in the best facilities. Diluting these facilities will pull those figures down further.
    And the facilities and cousellors are neither equipped nor trained, presently, to deal with multiple issue candidates. So if this, unfortunate young man, were shoe horned into the system of an addiction recovery centre and died in there, we would now be hearing about inadequate or bad care in an institution that was never equipped to deal with his condition in the first place.

    This is not a case of why didn’t addiction centres take him. It is a case of why hasn’t the HSE recognised the growing awareness, and need, of care for patients multiple issues for either addiction or mental health and those reporting with both addiction and mental health issues or problems.

    Let me put it like this, to put it simply, if you were depressed from alcohol and were alcoholic, it is very possible and has been the case with many addicts that your depression will lift upon recovering from alcohol.
    But if your problem is depression, and that’s why you’re an acoholic or drug addict, the approach is completely different in how that patient is treated.

    My heart goes out to this family, but shouting at addiction centres for not taking him in is not going to help. Nor would it have helped if they did.

    It’s from the ground up these services need assistance in dealing with such cases, which are sadly increasing every year. I think ‘brazen inadequacy’ would be more true than ‘brazen negligence’ – I am certainly not defending the HSE, just pointing out what I believe is a more nuanced view of the issue of the treatment of mental health and addiction and facilities available.

    May he rest in piece.

    The best addiction centres are The Rutland in Dublin and Hope House in Mayo.

    (I’d shut down Victory Outreach facilities; and Chun Mhuire centres with their heavy focus on religion rather than counselling definitely needs updating, the amount of people that go through 90 days in Chum Mhuire and never had a one-to-one counselling session only sets up patients for repeat visits. But Chun Mhuire has worked for many, but if you’re not religious, and I mean really religious, you won’t get anything out of it).
    PS – i’m no counsellor, but addiction is an area I’ve studied for quite some time now.

  6. Joe cool

    It really is a lottery. I’m one of the lucky ones. Back in 2012 I had a breakdown due to problems from childhood I’d never addressed. Just awful to even think back to it. Luckily I live in Kildare and I reached out desperately to my G.P. For help. Within days I was given access to some of the very best care and help i could ask for. I’m originally from Dublin and I dread to think what would have happened if I’d still lived there

    1. phil

      Fair play Joe, you have a good GP , hang onto Him. A good GP can be the difference between a positive outcome and a tragic one …

      1. Joe cool

        Exactly Phil. Any time I visit him, he takes the time to have a proper genuine chat. His concern and caring nature are genuine

  7. ollie

    And this is one of the reasons that my Fine Gael vote will go elsewhere in February.
    Ireland, a great little country if you are healthy, if you are ill forget it.

    1. Condescending Nana

      how does that equate FG? to me it seems typical of the “work as little as possible” attitude you get in public service, the home of unionised dead wood and underachievers.

        1. cluster

          No, of course unions can be very valuable.

          There is, however, clearly a problem with the unions in the health system. They have too much sway & seem willing to make unreasonable demands to the point that patients suffer. Conscientious health sector workers suffer too as they end up covering for the lazy & incompetent.

          This applies to each of the HSE office workers, consultants, nurses and hospital porters unions. The health system seems to be riddled with vested interests and no politician seems to have the political capital, the public support, the will or the bravery to take them on.

          1. Clampers Outside!


            Unions can get way out of hand. Like in the welfare offices when new systems were introduced a few years ago, many office staff refused to use the new systems, as it was a change to the agreed working practice and they were supported by the unions in basically preventing welfare working more efficiently.
            A similar problem is going on in the planning offices I’m told by a friend who works there.

            When that kinda interference is done by unions I think they do more harm than good.

            Personally, I couldn’t work in an environment where someone would tell you, “don’t do that, it’s not your job, I’ll report you to the union”. It’s ridiculous in the extreme IMO ! Don’t get me started on the ESB….

    1. classter

      That is rather unfair. Some problems, and this is clearly one of them, are beyond the ability of an individual family alone.

      There is a reason that we pay income tax.

      1. Ivor

        What exactly do you think his family should have done that they didn’t dino? This young man had serious problems that required help from professionals. The world is not a Disney movie and love is not enough to cure all ills.

    2. Jhf

      Dino,have you not read his sister’s story on poor family have as we say been through the mill ,so unless you have walked in their shoes you should keep your cold heartless comment to yourself.

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