Tag Archives: suicide

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Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald during Leaders’ Questions today

“Tánaiste, I wish, this morning, to raise with you the issue of mental health and suicide prevention. Yesterday, the coroner’s court held an inquest into the death by suicide of a young man in November, 2014.

This man was Ryan Dempsey, from The Liberties.

He was in his 20s, he had his full life ahead of him and he was clearly a young man at risk.

He’d been discharged five times from accident and emergency in a six-month period before his death.”

Taking an overdose, on one occasion, he was brought to the A&E, and was discharged on the same day. Found hanging another time, brought to the A&E, discharged 12 hours later.”

“The following day, he tried to throw himself out of a window, again, brought to the A&E and discharged within hours.”

“On the final occasion, he presented himself to the A&E, he was expressing suicidal feelings. He, Tánaiste, was left in a room by himself, where he attempted to cut himself twice.”

He was then transferred to a ward, left on his own again, and Ryan hanged himself and he died.

“…Tánaiste, we failed Ryan. The health system failed Ryan and how different it all might have been if Ryan was provided with the proper follow-up care on his first presentation.

His family believe that he was not assessed properly, he was not observed properly, his care was inappropriate, inadequate, right up until the time that he took his life.”

“Ryan was failed by the mental health service, which simply does not function at the times when people need it. Accident and Emergency (A&E) is not the right place for people in acute, mental distress.”

“So we need to fund the delivery of community and early intervention services, as was promised ten years ago in Vision For Change. And yet, ten years on, we still don’t have 24/7 crisis intervention services. Not a single crisis house has been established and, at present, there are just 15 suicide crisis intervention nurses in the State.”

“People in distress present themselves to the Gardaí, to the A&E, places where over-stretched and, sometimes, inappropriately trained staff struggle and do their best but they’re not capable of proving the appropriate care.”

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald speaking in the Dáil in the last hour.

Watch today’s Dáil proceedings – the last before the summer recess – live here

StephenMurphy

Before You Push The Chair.

By Stephen Murphy, who writes:

The truth of it is that I’ve spent a large part of the past 20 years bitten by the black dog, but I think more people have than will ever let on, but much of the time is spent ‘keeping the best side out’. The days of either being mad or sane are thankfully over, & if we sat down for a chat we’d probably find that we’re only as mad as each other.

I don’t expect many people to watch this to be honest, nor does it matter one way or another. My only hope is that it might find its way to somebody in the darkness, and possibly bring them some bit of light along the way.

Thanks Dublin Says No

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Trevor Murtagh

Trevor Murtagh was the only child of Seamus and Carole Murtagh of Dundalk, Co Louth.

A busy political activist and writer, Trevor graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a masters degree in Psychoanalytical Studies.

He took his own life the day after his 29th birthday.

In Village magazine, where Trevor interned, Trevor’s cousin Jon-Paul Faulkner documents the family’s struggle to get him help in a system that made things worse.

Jon-Paul  writes:

I was living up in Dublin. Trevor was at home in Louth. We were close cousins who had lived next door to each other our whole lives – he was my brother really, to be honest. Trevor, apart from my Mum, was the closest person in my life, he was my family.

I always thought Trevor was fine, he was honestly the most positive and encouraging person I had ever met, he seemed to have a philosophy on life that was all about living and having fun and loving. In all my life I never once heard Trevor say he disliked anyone, and that was the kind of person he was; it was the kind of person I aspired to be.

Whenever I felt down, I’d be really quiet; Trevor was the opposite: he could always talk ‘til the cows came home and was really outgoing. This made me think that Trevor was happy.

He had changed a little since he had had a bout of depression in 2011, just after he finished his Master’s in Psychology. His family and friends knew about it. He was still Trevor, positive and outgoing, but when we’d go socialising he would sometimes be more hyperactive than usual, talking non-stop, but still so, so much energy, so outgoing, clever, and apparently happy.

I got a phone call from his parents to say Trevor had been admitted to hospital. His friends had found a suicide note crumpled up in a basket and he had been hospitalised. I couldn’t believe it. It came as a complete shock.

I had seen him the previous weekend, and he seemed ok, though not his usual cheerful self, certainly a bit quieter than usual. Trevor was admitted to hospital on 20 June 2014 and was discharged nine weeks later on 22 August.

It took me a long time to write this, mainly because we wanted to wait until Trevor’s inquest before telling our story, and that didn’t happen until 3 November 2015, but also because, going through in detail what happened to Trevor during his stay in hospital is so, so painful for me: I don’t want to remember him that way.

I think of Trevor from the moment I wake up to when I lie in bed at night, but I try to remember the real Trevor, the happy one – of those memories I have so many. The perverse images of Trevor, once so full of life, lying in a coffin, these memories come to me and I struggle to push them away and think of happier times.

Trevor’s family, and particularly his Mum, Carole, struggled in vain to get help for her only child. We thought we were lucky that Trevor was actually admitted to a psychiatric hospital, but unfortunately we were not lucky with a minority of his healthcare professionals, including his head consultant. His mental health actually deteriorated during his stay in hospital.

When I came in to the hospital that evening of 20 June it broke my heart. It was surreal; Trevor wasn’t Trevor, he was manic, he was so distressed, he kept rubbing his fist against the side of his head, “there’s nothing, there’s nothing in here”, he was saying. “I’m nothing”. It didn’t make sense, Trevor thought he had nothing in his head, nothing to say, the guy could talk for two hours straight about most topics, he was an intelligent guy! He was also saying he had no friends, yet Trevor had such a huge number of friends, and they were ‘real’ friends, they all really loved him, and they were from all walks of life.

Trevor was delusional. I tried to comfort him. “Trevor”, I said, “look, you’re going to get better, trust me, these doctors are the best in Europe, this is one of the best hospitals in Ireland, they’re going to find out what’s wrong with you and you’re going to get better, soon, trust me!”.

But I was wrong, and it didn’t take long to realise it.

(continued at link below)

Documenting A Suicide (Jon-Paul Faulkner, Village)

Trevor Was A Scholar And Environmental Campaigner (Obituary, Independent.ie)

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Michelle Ross on Claire Byrne Live last night, above, and her late brother Derek, top

Last night, fashion and beauty blogger Michelle Ross spoke on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live about her brother Derek who died by suicide last September.

Ms Ross’s appearance followed a blog post that she wrote about Derek, who had addiction problems and suffered from depression, last week.

Recalling the night Derek died, Ms Ross told the show:

“When I talk about Derek having addiction problems, he wasn’t a full-blown addict, he kind of just dabbled in recreational drugs. He suffered really bad with depression though and he went many times to doctors and was always offered advice on taking anti-depressants which is something that he, kind of, didn’t want to do. When he was told he should take anti-depressants, he kind of thought he could try and get himself out of it.

Months previous to him taking his own life, he had made an [suicide] attempt. Obviously he wasn’t successful at that stage and we were sent to an A&E department and, after hours of waiting to be seen, he was sent home with a letter in his hand for a referral appointment for two months’ time.”

“We got the referral letter to out local GP office. On the following morning, I contacted the office myself and just basically said to them, ‘we’ve got our referral letter’ [to go and see a psychiatrist]. He had seen a psychiatrist that night in the A&E department and they said that they couldn’t help him there. When I contacted the GP the following morning they said, ‘oh yeah, we received the referral from the hospital last night’ and they gave me an appointment for two months’ time.”

“I kicked up a bit of a fuss about that and refused to get off the phone until I got an earlier appointment. I didn’t get anything and then a friend of the family arranged for Derek to go and see a counsellor in Coolmine. And he went for that counselling session and then it kind of just went by the wayside”

We didn’t know where to turn to. We weren’t offered any advice about any organisations that we could go to and seek help from ourselves, as a family, for Derek, and he was willing to go and get help. He wanted to get his head right but we just didn’t know what to do.”

Meanwhile, University of Limerick students Caolan O’Donnell, Ciaran Cleary and Ciaran English were in the audience.

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Last week, they made a video – for Caolan’s campaign for welfare officer at UL – which aimed to raise awareness about mental health.

Caolan (above far right) said:

“The fact that we don’t have a minister for mental health is an embarrassment. As in, it’s clearly a massive, massive issue. 131 students on average, a year in Ireland, die by suicide. How is that being ignored?”

Watch back Claire Byrne Live in full here

If only they knew… (Michelle Ross, needsnotwantsblog.com)

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Clear Haze writes:

“Recently a well-known comic musician from Limerick described his generation as either getting on planes or jumping in rivers. With a suicide rate of about twice the national average, Limerick City is an extreme example of the national mental health and suicide crisis. 

Jack Olohan met with the Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol to discuss their work and the problems being faced on a daily basis. In the run-up to the election the issue of mental illness and suicide rates in Ireland must be clearly addressed.”

Previously: My Generation

Earlier: Facebook Update

Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol

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From top: Caoilte O Broin, who was found in the River Liffey on January 2, after going missing on December 29, 2015; and smiling face masks

You may recall the death of Caoilte O Broin.

Caoilte suffered from mental health problems and drank heavily, meaning he had what is termed  ‘dual diagnosis‘, something most mental health services in Ireland will not treat.

Tomorrow night Caoilte’s family and friends will hold a silent candlelit vigil outside Leinster House on Kildare Street, Dublin, at 7pm.

They will distribute smiling face masks to represent how people tend to hide their mental health illnesses.

Previously: An Avoidable Death

Caoilte’s Dual Diagnosis

Pics: Cat O Broin

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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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Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin

Patsy McGarry, in the Irish Times, reports:

Speaking at a Mass in Lucan Co Dublin marking the 10th anniversary of suicide support organisation Pieta House, [Archbishop Diarmuid Martin] said it would not be right not to accept the church’s role in fomenting such taboos.

It would not be honest for me to stand here this afternoon and not recognise that the Church in Ireland and farther afield contributed greatly to the level of taboo which surrounded suicide,” he said.

He continued that “a Church which loses the sense of the priority of mercy gets trapped in a priority of rules, and loses the meaning of those rules. The preaching of Jesus was constantly directed against those who imposed burdens on others and never lifted a hand to help.

That rigidity and hypocrisy remains always a temptation. It will not be combated simply by homilies and critique, no matter how important they are.”

Church ‘contributed greatly’ to taboos on suicide – Martin (Irish Times)

Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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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 Joe.ie, 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 (Joe.ie)

Thanks Shane Gillen

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Dr Julien Mercille addresses the lack of coverage of the the 500 suicides caused by austerity, according to a major Irish study released on the same day of the Berkeley tragedy.

Dr Mercille writes:

On Tuesday, we learned about two tragedies: one has received extensive coverage, but the other has been ignored by the Irish media.

The first tragedy is, of course, the six Irish students who died in Berkeley, California, due to the collapse of a balcony, while away in the United States for the summer.

The second tragedy is that austerity and recession have resulted in 500 deaths by suicide in Ireland between 2008 and 2012, according to a major study by a team of researchers at University College Cork released two days ago [1].

Those are “excess” suicides, i.e., suicides that happened on top of the number of suicides that would have been expected if pre-recession trends in suicide rates had continued unchanged after 2008. As I write this, the study got zero mention in the whole Irish media except for one short article in the Irish Examiner.

The study confirms that economic crisis and austerity have led to higher numbers of suicides in many countries. Previous research had looked at 54 countries in Europe and the Americas and estimated that there were 4884 excess suicides in those countries in 2009 when compared to previous years.

Another report found that over 1000 excess suicides happened in England in 2008-2010. In Spain, the economic crisis has led to an 8% increase in suicide rates. In Greece, suicides appear to have risen by more than 60% since 2007. In the United States, between 2008 and 2010, there were 4750 more suicides than expected.

The Irish study found that the bulk of the 500 excess suicides are accounted for by men (the rate of suicide for women has been little affected by the recession and austerity).

One reason is most likely the loss of men’s construction jobs in the wake of the housing bubble collapse, which has led to unemployment and mental health problems that can lead to suicide.

However, there have also been 5029 more male and 3833 more female cases of self-harm (excluding suicide) than if pre-recession trends had continued, and thus women also have felt negative consequences.

The Irish media gave us a lot of details about the students killed in Berkeley, including individual profiles, pictures, and testimonies.

But we know nothing about the 500 people who killed themselves out of desperation or for any other reason under austerity. We don’t know their names, their faces, their families, what they were doing, or the circumstances of their deaths. We don’t even know they died.

How can the difference in media attention be explained? The main reason is very simple: talking about the deaths of 500 people by suicide under austerity automatically points the finger at the governments and politicians who have implemented such a policy, in Ireland and Europe. It also points a finger at the media, which has actively supported the policy. The media has thus little interest in talking about it, just like it has little interest in documenting the negative consequences of austerity in general.

On the other hand, talking about the Irish students who died in Berkeley leads to no such accusations. It’s a tragedy, period, and therefore makes it to the front pages.

[1] Corcoran P, Griffin E, Arensman E, Fitzgerald AP, Perry IJ (2015) Impact of the economic recession and subsequent austerity on suicide and self-harm in Ireland: An interrupted time series analysis. International Journal of Epidemiology (advance access here).

@JulienMercille is lecturer at UCD and the author of The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland (2015, Routledge). His new book, Europe’s Treasure Ireland (Palgrave), will be out in July 2015.