‘HSE Keeps Me From Dying But Does Little To Help Me Live’



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

45 thoughts on “‘HSE Keeps Me From Dying But Does Little To Help Me Live’

  1. Jessica Carroll

    No wonder Marie Duffy is so depressed, she has an entire blog dedicated to critising the HSE/Mental Health services in Ireland.

    If she tried to put as much effort into dealing with her mental well-being as she did with channeling her negativity toward the Irish medical system, I’m sure she would be a much happier person.

    Don’t dwell on the negative.

    1. Joni2015

      I’m not buying this at all. Read the other blog posts and it’s clear that she is in no position to properly evaluate mental health treatments.

    2. Clampers Outside!

      Very good, very good, yes, yes… mental health patient with 13 years experience with the HSE starts blog in Nov 2014.

      Chastised by internet commenter for wasting the last 17 months or so for writing blog about it.

      Talking is good.
      Writing is good.

      1. Anne

        Ah cheer up Clampers.. Jessica has the answer to severe depression dontchaknow..
        Maria needs to focus on less negative stuff like the inadequate treatment she received.. she should write about the flowers and the bees instead and taddah she’ll be right as rain..

    3. Anne


      If she had cancer and got little treatment for it, would you say don’t dwell on the negative also?

      1. Jessica Carroll

        From the post:

        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’.

        How can you de-stigmaise something across an entire population in a country?

        The older Irish people are still clinging to their out of touch with the modern world ways. They would call a person with a mental illness as ‘oh, they’re not right in the head’.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          “How can you de-stigmaise something across an entire population in a country?”

          Our gay brothers and sisters might have an opinion about that.

          1. My Meat is Murder

            Yes let’s construct an irrelevant straw man as we are not outraged enough yet

        2. Anne

          Yeah let’s blame the old folks, when they’re probably more compassionate than the likes of you..

          You ‘de-stigmaise’ as you put it, by talking/writing about it.

      2. Kieran NYC

        Weren’t you the one who said online bullying can just be ignored and Tubridy should just shut up?

        Why yes you were.

        1. Anne

          Cmere, ECT works someone said below there.. would you give it a blast? You never know. It might stimulate activity.

    1. Rob_G

      It does indeed work in many cases.

      Still – not something that I would like to have to contemplate undergoing.

  2. Jessica Carroll

    It’s like every week there’s a new person coming forward saying “WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH”.

    We’ve had a whole rake of people doing the same with the last 6 years: Bressie, Conor Cusack, the lad who tried to burn down Eddie Rocketts on Camden St but now lives in a pent house in south Dublin, Doug Leddin, there’s too many to list.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      It’s interesting that people talking about mental health annoys you so much you felt the need to wrote 2 of the 4 posts so far on the thread.

    2. Clampers Outside!

      Look, if you don’t like patients of mental health doing what is good for their well being – discussing, writing, talking, doing charity runs, or whatever – then look the other bloody way.

      Leo Varadkar today just made huge cuts to mental health budgets for 2016 – https://twitter.com/gavreilly/status/722760313721004032

      But sure, there’s too much talk about it anyway, sure maybe the cuts will shut them up and maybe kill ’em off for moaning….

      Put a sock in it Jessica

    3. ivan

      well, see, if the problem is still there, and the numbers of people suffering aren’t tailing off, then it’s evident that nothing’s being done. Not talking about it *won’t* lead to anything being done, so I guess more talking it is.

      The ‘more talking’ is also due to the stigma. If there was an illness that hit people randomly at any age, taht caused their face to go stripey and a leg to fall off after three years, we’d be panicking like the bejaykers at it. And we’d talk about it, and what to do about it before more people lost their legs because, well, because we can see the problem and we think that ‘sure I could get it as well…’. I’d think that funding could be found to fight the disease too, not just attach braces to hold legs on, and absorbent pads to hide the bleeding.

      But mental illness? Same randomness, and yet…the same sufferers crying out and treatments remaining largely in the dark ages.

      The simple fact of the matter is that there are no votes in mental health, or at least that’s how politicans see it.

    4. Anne

      “the lad who tried to burn down Eddie Rocketts on Camden St”

      If only he wasn’t so negative.. he’d be positive.

    5. ethereal_myst

      while you are at it why don’t you tell all those people talking about cancer and heart disease to shut up too…

  3. SOMK

    Not wanting to add to the negative buzz in the comments here (people should be nicer to folks who have been in situations like this in general), but seeing as I’ve recently passed through the system myself (or at least am in the process of passing through it), thought I’d throw in I was very impressed by the quality of care I received and continue to receive. Granted my spell was short (two weeks as opposed to nine months), and it can be a bit boring (especially as the meds effect you’re ability to concentrate, ergo to read), but there’s nothing wrong with boring, especially if you’ve got demons to wrestle with.

    One thing that did strike me was the number of travellers there, in particular there was at least two who had breakdowns waiting for the system to sort them out with accommodation, but then the mental health services are often places where people who have been failed by other systems will end up. Incidentally Ireland has a very high relative spend on out patient care.

    Granted it’s a disgrace that funding is being cut, but that’s Fine Gael for you, the callous Tory wankers that they are. Anyway I saw no striking evidence the system should be overhauled, just broken people, who didn’t deserve to be broken.

    1. Lorcan Nagle

      You’re damned lucky then. My friends and family who’ve had to deal with the HSE’s mental health services have similar experiences to Marie.

  4. fluffybiscuits

    Regarding Jessicas post first off, its borne out of ignorance and sheer stupidity that she did not really think before engaging with her post.

    This is the effects of austerity, fund mental services. it is facing the biggest crisis it has since the 80s

  5. DaithiG

    Jesus, it sounds like One Flow Over the Cookoo’s Nest only without the lobotomy and worse.

  6. Derek

    I interviewed a young woman last week who has lived most of her life having to contend with numerous and serious mental health issues, and it was clear to me that a) the current system is far less than effective, and b) the most important first step is feeling you are able to talk to someone about how you’re feeling AND NOT BEING JUDGED FOR IT.

    Audiophiles might like to listen to Ep8 here: http://www.HODCast.com

  7. Impoverished student

    That is incredible and wrong that she spent so long in hospital without seeing a shrink! I would have thought if you were in a mental health ward it would practically be daily appointments. (And I’m sure if such was the case people wouldn’t be in nearly as long, saving lots of money)

    I think if you meet certain criteria such as repeated non-situational (Ie. Chronic ) mental healt problems you should be entitled to free sessions at least twice a month for as long as needed. Say what you want, you can’t put a price on life!

  8. H

    Didn’t read many other comments so apologies if I am repeating something, I am a trainee counsellor (who has also suffered from depression, anxiety and PTSD – not all at the same time) and as such I have done a lot of research into the different approaches to mental health problems, as well as their causes.

    I think that Marie hit the nail right on the head when she said We need to start by helping people recover from mental illness, instead of patching them up and sending them out until the next time. The whole problem with the ‘medical approach’ favoured by the HSE (and NHS) is that it only treats the symptoms and not the causes.

    What is really needed is an approach that deals with the causes aka the ‘psychological approach’ where a person can explore and resolve the issues behind their mental health problem. This is backed up by empirical research which shows that counselling as effective as drugs at treating mental health problems in the short term and more effective in the long term. The NHS is slowly waking up to this and is making access to psychological therapy easier but it still has a long way to go, hopefully HSE will come around to this way of thinking too, especially as it would be more cost effective long term.

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      TBf to the NHS, they have IAPTs programmes and extensively use CBT (the question being what you think of either in terms of effectiveness).

      1. H

        IAPT is better than nothing IMO but it would be preferable if they were able to offer more counselling rather than mostly just teaching people to self manage with CBT techniques. I am an advocate of CBT techniques, they have helped me get through many dark times, but counselling (which could be CBT counselling) is what is really needed to resolve issues.

    2. Clampers Outside!

      Hear, hear !

      The HSE treats mental health like a cut knee. It’s daft, incompetent and ignorant and dangerous to the patient to do so…. and what does Leo do…. cuts a third of the budget for mental health in 2016…. what a canoot!

  9. Ricky Ricardo

    Thanks, Broadsheet, for putting up the numbers for talking services. Fair played to ye. :)

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