Niall Breslin, aka Bressie, before the Joint Committee on Health and Children in the Dáil this morning
“Over the past few months I’ve received a massive amount of communication from families of loved ones attempting to access our mental health services and I would not be doing them justice if I said it made for pretty reading. This, I understand, is highly complicated and sensitive but it’s a conversation that we have to have.
Only this month did I receive a deeply upsetting news that a young man, Caoilte, who is a family member of a friend of mine, was found dead in the River Liffey.
He took his own life after enduring years of unexplainable pain. Many times the family tried to access help but they were refused because the young man was consuming alcohol and told he could not be helped because of his drinking – which was intrinsically linked to his mental health illness.
In a country that celebrates and promotes alcohol through it’s culture, it’s simply not acceptable that someone is turned away from help on account of it.
The family were even advised to take a barring order out which no doubt would have been broken, resulting in criminalising this young man for being mentally unwell – hardly something any mother would want to do to their own vulnerable child.
His situation was complicated and seemed highly subjective to this family involved.
But upon posting this story on my website, it was immediately evident that this story was not uncommon throughout Ireland – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, all explaining similar painful and heart wrenching stories.
The details of this story are slowly going to emerge over the coming months but this family don’t want to play the blame game or point fingers. They simply want a change. They do not want to see other families have to endure what they’ve had to and will no doubt have to endure for the rest of their lives.
No mother should ever feel this helpless and it deserves so much more. Caoilte, an intelligent, witty young man, deserved so much more. He was anyone’s brother.
We need to ask hard questions here, those stories are just too common. So many people wanted to help this young man but their hands were tied by bureaucracy, vague legalities
and a lack of resources – and they should never have been put in that position in the first place.
This is not a quick fix, that in order to progress you must first accept that change is needed. Irish people, in some cases, have shown to be revolutionary when it comes to social innovation and I hope we continue to be in the future. We have proven that negative cultural attitudes can be transformed and, although we are sometimes cautious of change, we never let it dictate our collective actions.
We’re built upon unique character and personality and we punch well above our weight internationally. We can become world leaders when it comes to our mental health strategies going forward. Let’s work on this together.
This is only the start of a conversation and it is important that the next health committee prioritise mental health for young people as a key issue for its future work programme. I appeal to you all, to use your full influence, passion and desire to work together with us, to tackle and overcome the issues we are facing and help build a more resilient society and a new Ireland.
Bressie’s opening address before the Oireachtas health committee this morning.
Yesterday: My Voice
An Avoidable Death
Watch live here