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Stephen Byrne

Lisa Naylor writes:

This isn’t my first time contacting you about the mental health services in our country, but sadly today I am not writing on my own behalf.

On Friday, the 15th of January, Stephen Byrne attended Beaumont A&E to seek medical assistance. He was 20, a devoted father and suicidal. A few days prior, he had attempted to hang himself multiple times while in police custody; at that time he was brought to the Mater but was released.

Despite informing staff at Beaumont of his intent to commit suicide, he was discharged. The only help he was offered was that his file would be sent to his clinic in Ballymun.

On Tuesday, the 19th of January, Stephen went missing; his body was discovered two days later, on his daughter’s second birthday. To date, nobody from the Ballymun clinic has made contact with Stephen’s family.

As anyone with mental health difficulties knows, asking for help when you are at your lowest is incredibly difficult. It takes unbelievable strength to fight your own mind and reach out. This is especially true for young men, as historically our country has stigmatised those with mental illnesses as weak or failing in some way.

Men are statistically less likely to seek treatment for mental health issues, but they are four times more likely to die by suicide then women. Yet, when a young man found the courage to walk into an A&E department he was turned away, with devastating consequences.

I know all too well the pain and desolation of reaching out when all you want to do is die, only to be dismissed and invalidated by the very people who are supposed to offer aid. It might sound histrionic to some, but they might as well help you to step onto the ledge.

After my last suicide attempt, as soon as I regained consciousness I was discharged from Beaumont A&E without ever speaking to a doctor, let alone a member of the psychiatric team. I know a young woman who just last week attempted suicide inside the hospital grounds, and was simply patched up and sent on her way.

I know that there are many people with similar accounts, especially those with a history of self-harm or suicide attempts. This is because certain hospitals, as a result of overcrowding and staff shortages, have a policy whereby patients who present more than a handful of times with self-inflicted injuries, including suicide attempts, are no longer referred to the psychiatric team for assessment. We are seen as a waste of resources.

This is not just a local issue, across the nation there are thousands of people waiting for referrals, many of whom will have to travel for hours for an appointment as a result of hospital closures. In some areas the wait for a psychology referral is two years. In 2014 nearly 3,000 children and adolescents were on waiting lists for psychiatric referrals and children are routinely admitted to adult psychiatric units.

As a country we are finally starting to break the draconian cycle of shame and secrecy that surrounds mental illness, but our mental health service remains inadequate, underdeveloped and underfunded.

The Government and politicians are quick to promise change and reforms, but while we wait for them to turn words into actions more and more lives will be lost. Sadly any improvements will be too late for Stephen, his family and his little girl, Ava.

Stephen asked for help and he was rejected; someone decided he was not important enough for their time, their care or their compassion. At what point does someone’s life become dispensable? Who are we supposed to turn to if our own healthcare system deems us unworthy?

They tell people suffering from mental health difficulties to ‘speak up’; to talk to a professional; to not suffer in silence. They ask for our trust, and then break it.

Ask yourself, if you were living in hell; if you were in so much pain that you would take your own life to escape it, would you put your survival in the hands of an institution that will likely make your life even more unbearable?

The Samaritans: 116 123 (free)

Console: 1800 247 247

A life lost (Lisa Naylor, Full Of Muchness)

Previously: Please Listen To Lisa

Yesterday: ‘Caoilte’s Story Is Not Uncommon’

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51 thoughts on “Turned Away

  1. frank

    This is such a common occurrence now; nation wide.
    It isn’t rocket science to work out that government policy actually directs that nothing be spent – not a single solitary cent – to aid the needy and the desperate.

        1. Noreen Kenny

          …not the same as the “Old Ireland” In “Old Ireland” People who presented to Admission Units attached to psychiatric hospitals were always admitted if they were suicidal. It is a shame that people who are suicidal cannot be admitted straight away under the psychiatric services instead of waiting for hours or being discharged ….

          1. Catherine Conlon

            Noreen, I lost my daughter to suicide over four years ago and three months after she died, I myself became suicidal. I met with a junior psychiatrist who told me if I went to a psychiatric unit in Ennis I would receive counselling for grief, anger and my depression so I agreed. Upon admission I was put into a room on my own for a week. I soon realised that there were no counsellors, people sat all day in day rooms or corridors with little or nothing to do. You are observed by psychiatric nurses (some in training) everything is recorded, what you eat, drink, sleep, social interaction, everything. I was allowed out on my own even when suicidal. I watched people being beaten, smoke weed,sneak their meds out. I met with a psychiatrist once a week for 15 minutes. He was insincere and uncaring. I actually had to ask a nurse to speak to him about his manner. Many of the people were ongoing patients for many years. One patient was there for ten years. They were mostly interested in putting you on meds (high doses) I spent most of my time in the smoking area and heard so many stories from people and why they were there. It broke my heart. People were let out with no referrals for ongoing care. When I complained about how people were treated they tried to intimidate me. Many people were in the wrong place. One person an adult with special needs was there to give his family respite. Others were alcoholics put there to dry out or coming down from drugs. While I was there a woman attempted suicide in the same room as me. She too was allowed out and bought the tablets in the shop across the road. I was told that I looked like nothing was wrong with me. I saw elderly people sitting in chairs for the whole day. I met with a psychiatric team that was supposed to provide after care, but I heard nothing from them after I left. I was given meds that I had a reaction to, I told a nurse, who said I wasn’t. It wasn’t until I got home and read the information leaflet provided that I realised I was indeed having a bad reaction and should have gone to A&E. I rang Ennis to see what I should do to be told it had nothing to do with them to contact my GP. My own GP told me later that he wouldn’t put a cow in there. I don’t believe it helped me in any way, in fact I think it made me worse. I didn’t have anxiety going in, but I was put on such a high dose of anti anxiety medication that I couldn’t function without them. So from my experience I would say it’s not the best way to go to help a person who is suicidal. A combined approach of medication, talk therapy and after care support for the person and their families would be a better solution. It’s difficult enough to admit you’re suicidal and suffering from depression ( the stigma that goes with it) without also having to be admitted to a psychiatric unit.

        2. Fergus the magic postman

          To say it’s the same, is to say it is no worse than it has been before, which is far from the case.

          It has never been so bad, and the sheer levels of people needing psychiatric help being fobbed off/ brushed under the carpet (so to speak ) are outrageous currently. It may have been far from perfect in the past, but it wasn’t this bad by a long shot.

  2. manolo

    The country that ‘values life too much’ to allow euthanasia and threatens living ones who assist with jail and criminal records wouldn’t be bothered to help the anguished ones who beg for help to stop them from committing suicide. We are letting the ones who want to live die while forcing the ones who want to die to live. How f*#@ed up is that? RIP young man.

  3. Eepaneem

    This is utterly shocking. I’m appalled. The poor man and his family.

    Can the families mentioned in this post not sue for negligence?

  4. b

    I was a patient of the ballymun clinic. when I saw a locum psychiatrist there he said what I needed was a psychologist. I never got to see the psychologist. the waiting list was massive. I got better.

  5. sendog

    Mental health services are a joke in Ireland.

    Go to the clinic once every 3 months. Get seen by a different doctor each time who spends 5 minutes looking thru your file. Prescription written. See you in 3 months.

    When i asked why i see a different doctor its because they need to train up new doctors. Took 2 years of constant nagging to get to see a counselor. got to see counselor eventually but it was only for 6 weeks as cut backs and funding.

    An absolute farce.

    When i see adverts and promotions about mental health asking people to seek help i feel disgusted. There is no help. I was left to my own devices and to educate and learn to cope myself. A process that took years. A process that would have been quicker had i actual support. Support i pay well for thru my taxes.

    My whole experience with the mental health services in this country left me feeling worse. I felt more alone then ever. I wish i had never gone near them.

    1. Siobhan


      I live in London. After attempting suicide my parents flew over and forced me on a plane back to Ireland. After 2 months at home, dealing with the HSE, I came back to the UK, and honestly my GP here saved my life.

      Maybe I was just unlucky with the psychologists and psychisatrists I met in Ireland, and lucky with the doctor (who was not a mental health specilaist, just a GP) that I had in London. But I would fully agree with sendog’s statements – esp regarding feeling worse after dealing with mental health professionals in Ireland.

      RIP Stephen.

    2. S

      I feel the same – I wish I could go back in time and not seek help from mental health services. It’s not only the fact that they don’t have resources to help – but the fact that they often belittle and shame you for asking for help, as if being in suicidal anguish is just you making a fuss and being bold. I can see from all these sad stories that of course it’s not personal to me – but it can be hard not to take it personally, especially when you’re already feeling worthless. The ads to seek help for mental health should come with a disclaimer.

      R.I.P Stephen, you deserved so so much better than this, and all others who’ve lost their lives or have lost their loved ones.

  6. Shayna

    Mental health issues are so often brushed aside, or dismissed as not being REAL. It only becomes real in a tragedy such as this. I recall reading on this site, a suicide note from a young guy who hanged himself. Luckily – or unluckily, depending on your perspective – I live in the North, where the NHS exists. It’s generally maligned, however, it saved my life.
    Perhaps the Govmnt should look at the model of healthcare in the UK, given that they pretty much replicate the UK in every aspect of government – it shouldn’t prove overly difficult – perhaps save a life, or two in the process?

  7. Ron

    This is a tragic story. I have nothing but utter contempt for every single politician in Ireland. I am ashamed of my country. RIP to Stephen, and my condolences to his family, friends.

  8. Sandrah

    Something very similar happened to my brother. After a suicide attempt they said they’d call a dr/psychologist before releasing him but he never came.. He walked out after hours waiting & then a time later committed suicide. Health care is an utter disgrace here with regards to mental health.. Condolences to his family

    1. Shayna

      Sandrah – Sorry about your brother. There are many other Sandrahs like you in Ireland. I don’t know how long ago you had your loss – but it was very brave of you to make your comment. This site isn’t a forum for change, but at least it allowed you to open up.
      I swallowed a pint of weed-killer one night, I’d already had about a gallon of cider –
      I swallowed the poison waiting to die -it didn’t come immediately, so I made another batch of weed-killer in a pint glass, I washed it down with a pint of strongbow, I just waited… I knew I was dying before I made the second batch. I thought about everything as I passed out, because of the volume of cider – I vomitted everything. I woke the next morning (un-expectedly) kissing the tiles of the hall-way.
      I’m still here, 8 years later – thanks to the NHS.
      People in despair rarely ask for help – they wallow in their own self pity. This isn’t a pscyh profile, just my own experience. As I was dying I thought about my three sisters and my brother – my Mum and Dad are both dead, funnily I didn’t think of them?
      Anyhoo Sandrah, your brother, most likely was thinking about you and everyone he thought dearest before his last breath.

      1. Emma

        It’s comments like that – wallow in their own self pity – that make people in despair feel like they can’t seek help. You may feel you were wallowing in your own self pity when you tried to end your life but I can tell you now I most certainly was not and it is unfair to assume everyone feels the way you may have felt

  9. Helena McCormack

    Same thing happened with my brother and that was in 2003 – sadly things have not changed.

  10. Alex Chilton

    Terribly tragic. RIP.

    From my experience (in another case close to home), the person was brought by the Gardai to Vincent’s in Fairview. They handled it all very well as that’s their specialty. The main hospitals don’t seem to be able to cope with this sort of thing at all.

    Mental health services as a whole in Ireland is one area continually overlooked and it’s just shocking. It affects those of all ages. It takes a lot of courage to step up and admit that you need help. There MUST be people there able to provide that help.

  11. Raymond

    I live in North clondalkin that has the highest suicide rate in Europe fact and my doctor is based their so they are his responsibility wen you add it up and he doesn’t even have my files from wen I was in a coma 5 years ago and suffered brain damage how can he possibly assess me I Tryd suicide and nerly succeeded more than once im happy now it didn’t work then but its no life but I tink my doctor could do alot more for me he’s a joke

  12. Bernie Davis

    I think its a crying shame on our governments part to allow this abuse to Mental health patients, the traitors sit in the Dail and give millions and billions to countries run by Despots and dictator’s. Lord God help us.

  13. Sarah

    Reading this makes me feel so many things. Heartbroken for Steven Byrne and the people that loved him, angry at our “leaders” who refuse to make the necessary changes happen, frustrated by the apathy we show as a nation by accepting substandard mental health services, disgusted that in 2016 we’re STILL talking about this as an “issue” and not the national emergency that it is.

    Unless you’ve been unfortunate enough to have had to engage with Ireland’s public mental health services you won’t truly understand that the service isn’t just substandard or broken (like a&e, elective surgeries etc are)…the service DOES NOT EXIST.

    Irish people have huge hearts, full of empathy & caring, so we’ve got mental health charities and volunteers stepping in to try fill the gap and help where the HSE won’t, but they’re bursting at the seams. With all the will and generosity in the world they CANNOT fix this.

    General election is around the corner, we’ll have opportunities for face time on our doorsteps with politicians and to voice our needs to the next government. Don’t let a single one off your doorstep without telling them to make mental health services their priority.

    I see some of Steven’s loved ones are reading these comments. I’ve been where you are, I know how much strength it took to share your story, thank you for your bravery.

  14. poppy

    A Mr Mulqueen went to a Limerick hospital seeking help a few years back , turned away and went to his tragic death immediately to the shannon river. Family devastated. The Boyne Fishermen rescue tell me they rescue numerous drowning suicidal persons, taken by ambulance to hospital, clothes dried and sent home. Watching fianna gael today congrulating themselves , sickening.

  15. Weldoninhio

    I’m calling bullshit on this story. I’ve been there, fed up living seeing no point in life. Been in Beaumont and the Psyc dept are very good. Unless you sat in on the consultation how do you know that he told the Dr how low he was?? I’ve gone to my Dr and put on a brave face even thought all I could think about was dying.

    It’s so easy to blame others, but I’ve been there and know that when you are in that state of mind you live 2 lives. The one you put out to the public, friends and family and the one you live in your head. After a very long time I realised this and opened up to my GP who was amazing, but to try to blame A&E is a cop out. I’m sure under FOI you would be able to get a copy of Stephens chart from his admission and I’m willing to bet that he didn’t say half as much as you think, like I didn’t. Doctors are human too, they can’t read anyone’s mind.

    1. Lisa

      ‘It’s so easy to blame others’ – In the 18 years I have struggled with my mental health, 11 of which I have spent in and out of HSE services, I have never once blamed another person for my problems. Every time I have self harmed or attempted auicide it has been my own doing, my decision. I am also a master at wearing a mask, the person I show the world rarely matches the real me. I have on more than one occasion lied to medical professionals about my thoughts, feelings and intentions.

      However, I have also spent 9 hours sobbing on a chair in Beaumont A&E after trying to hang myself, only to be told my a psychiatric liaison nurse that there was nothing to be done for me as they had no space, and that my file would be sent to my clinic in Coolock. It was never sent.
      I have had paramedics from Beaumont A&E come into my house and make derisive comments about me as I lay unconscious on the floor after taking an overdose.
      I have waited 8 hours in a chair, having been sent by my local psychiatrist as I had an irregular heartbeat on my ECG as a result of an eating disorder, just to be dismissed by a doctor with the words ‘Eat a banana.’
      In the two months leading up to my last visit to Beaumont I saw either a nurse or a psychiatrist every day and told them I wanted to die and had plans to kill myself and they could not find a bed to put me in. I begged them to help me, my family begged them to help me and because of our shambles of a healthcare system there was no room for me. I left the doctors office on a Thursday, having been completely honest about my suicidal intention, and was once again sent home alone. Shockingly, I tried to kill myself. This time neither I or my family were even allowed to speak to a doctor about my physical health, let alone see anyone from the psych ward as I was a ‘repeat offender’. Once I was conscious enough to stand, I was discharged.

      I may not know what Stephen Murphy said in that room, but I know for a fact that Beaumont hospital turn away very sick people and leave them to die. Doctors and nurses are human, no they can’t read minds, but they can try and remember that they chose to work in healthcare; they chose to help people.
      As a patient I am always told that it’s my responsibility to keep working on my recovery, that I can always try harder, to ask for help when I need it. But it is their responsibility to provide that help when I hold my hands up and ask for it.

    2. Lisa

      Just to add, I don’t think all HSE mental health workers are bad. My local clinic in Coolock are amazing and have always tried their best to get me help, but the lack of resources available meant they were limited in what they could do. My problem lies with the hospitals and staff who are supposed to provide emergency care at evenings and weekends and they fail to do so.

  16. Maria

    I took an intentional overdose of 60 tablets, was found and taken semi-conscious by ambulance to A&E. 10 hours later I was released to walk home by myself late on a dark and cold November night, still off my face on the tablets, with barely any clothes on, with no followup care arranged.

  17. b

    I have had experiences of the private and the public. the first time the poo hit the fan I went down the private route. it was expensive.cbt especially was very expensive and to be honest I don’t think it worked. then I went the public route. slightly better. I think you have to sort yourself out. exercise. listening to music, movies, A friend told me that he thinks our collective mental woes as a nation is due to the famine. a collective guilt/nightmare.

  18. mrsnowe

    I was always sceptical of the public mental health services however I am lucky to live in South Meath and have access to a mental health team that have supported, diagnosed, treated medically, psychologically and emotionally and have given me my life back all within ten minutes drive from my village. I have had four hospitalisations before joining the public clinic but now I have awareness and training so I can spot something before it develops into a crisis. A good story but sadly most counties and cities do not have the same resources or services. A friend with a similar diagnosis has attempted suicide twice because there is no psychiatrist available. Too many Irish people are dying because of mental health issues and no teams in place to deal with them. Wake up government and sort this out. Look to South Meath as a model. RIP young man.

  19. Robert Kidd

    While Enda and his gang of morons gaggle away all weekend in citywest…people lie in agony in A+E departments and those with emotional or psychological illnesses are discarded completely with no services fue to savage cutbacks in that area…its a total disgrace…similar situation in Finglas before xmas..Man discharged from Mater took his own life days later….its tragic all of it.

  20. Emma

    Sadly this happens time and time again. And it isn’t just in Dublin either. This very same thing happened to me in portlaoise in 2012. When the doctor told me he would not assess me I told him what I was going to do and he stood in the corridor where we had talked (because I obviously wasn’t even worth 5 mins of privacy in the assessment room 2 feet behind him) and watched me walk out of the hospital. A few hours later I was brought to CCU following a suicide attempt. The entire psychiatry dept went to ground and still would not come to see me. I was discharged when medically fit but was in no way mentally fit to be sent home. A week later my psych nurse called to see how I was but it was over a month before I saw my psychiatrist. No one was willing to discuss the actions of the doctor on call that day and over a year later when I felt able, I lodged a complaint with the hospital. The doctor called me a liar and as it was my word against his the hse sided with him. I went through several appeal processes and in the end was so worn down and distressed by the whole process that for the sake of my mental health I had to stop. It was the most horrific experience of my life, first being refused help, second being ignored and left to get myself back on my feet and third being made to feel like I was the one who had done wrong. Its taken a lot but with support from my husband and friends I’ve come back fighting. But I have lost all trust in the psychiatry team and our health system in general. I’m know I was one of the lucky ones who managed to survive the ordeal, and I know I’m not alone in my experience. RIP Stephen, I wish your family peace in the days and months ahead and I urge anyone struggling to contact the organisations listed at the end of the article above. It can and will get better. Stay strong

  21. Maria

    A harrowing read and my sincere condolences to this man’s family. I am currently coming out, I think, of a depressive breakdown. Many times over the last few months I’ve wanted desperately to have someone step in and stop me from harming myself, but I know enough about the HSE that I suspected I would be turned away and that the rejection would seem like a covert instruction to kill myself. It is the loneliest frame of mind you can imagine, so very very lonely and frightening. It is self – perpetuating in its logic, a form of torment, and it takes intervention from without because the person in pain cannot cope or rationalise their way out of it. Sadly too many people in positions of influence have no empathy or grasp of what this is like. Even doctors dismiss you.

    I guess I’d like to put something positive into this message. I can only speak from my own experience but, sometimes, maybe a lot of the time, when a person in your life is at that lowest ebb you can help them without fully understanding how they feel. For me having someone else call work, cook for me, watch over me, accompany me to the doctor, ask how the meds are working, tell me the pain is depression not a real reflection of my worthlessness, for a few weeks went a long way to getting perspective back. A mentally anguished person needs rest and recuperation, they really can’t do it alone. It exhausts you physically and mentally. They need as a group to be defended and cared for and nobody deserves what was done to this man.

  22. Michael

    Just to remind people, despite the chronic and despicable lack of services provided by our health service, there are voluntary services which will see people with much more urgency such as Pieta House

    1. Anto

      ”The only help he was offered was that his file would be sent to his clinic in Ballymun.”
      If that’s a methadone clinic, I’m not quite sure how Pieta House, which is not in fact a voluntary organisation, but a highly profitable business worth millions of euros, could possibly help a suicidal drug addict, as they turn suicidal addicts away.

  23. Carol

    This is another very tragic story and sadly there seems to be more and more of them appearing. I do voluntary work with Mental Health Reform who have an election campaign going to improve services . Politicans are saying though, that no body is raising this issue on the doorsteps so it is not a priority!

    The O Broins’s are holding a silent vigil outside the Dail on thursday 11th february at 7pm. Already 300 people have saidd they are going but more people are needed to attend to show this is a priority. They will appear on the late late show feb 19th.

    The general election is a chance to make mental health a priority, but the politicians need to know this is a priority.

  24. Steo's mate

    I knew Steo very well growing up always had a smile on his face would never pass you by without stopping to say hello and have a chat. Was full of character and energy. Hadn’t got a clue that he was going through so much pain. To say i’m shocked is an understatement. So many people from this Coolock kip over the years of all ages mostly young have taken their own lives. Its so sad and the saddest thing of all is that this story like all the many many others over the years will just be forgotten about out of the limelight. This kip is a joke and theres many more young kids who are out playing with their friends with not a worry in the world right now who are going to grow up and go through the very same thing and just become another statistic of this horrible illness & this joke of a health system. So so sad. R.I.P Steo sleep well my friend xxx <3

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