The fight for my life

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. Continue reading “The fight for my life”


What do Irish people think about mental health problems?

In 2010, the See Change campaign – with co-funding from the National Office for Suicide Prevention and the National Disability Authority – commissioned a national survey on ‘Public Attitudes Towards Mental Health Problems’. The survey is a benchmark study on Irish public attitudes to mental health problems. Below are ten headling findings from that survey.

1. Underreporting of mental health problems among key groups

  • 55-64 year olds: 5%
  • Farmers: 3%
  • People living in Dublin: 5%

2. Irish people vastly underestimate the extent of mental health problems

  • Just 11% were correct in the belief that 1 in 4 will experience a mental health problem
  • 21% believe that the correct answer is 1 in 10
  • 19% believe that the answer is 1 in 50
  • 20% believe that just 1 in 100 will experience a mental health problem

3. More information & education is required to promote greater understanding

  • 7 in 10 Irish people strongly agree that virtually anyone can develop a mental health problem
  • Over 1 in 2 think mental health issues are very common


  • Only 1 in 5 think the majority will recover
  • 7 in 10 recognise the symptoms of depression, but less than half recognise symptoms of schizophrenia

4. Stigma in the workplace is in urgent need of strategic attention

  • 2 in 3 strongly agree that those with mental health problems should have the same rights as others, but:
  • Only 46% say this in respect of job rights
  • Only 58% say that someone diagnosed with depression will go back to work within a year
  • Just 1 in 5 say they would be very comfortable working with someone with depression

5. Lack of information, poor understanding and lack of experience lead to stigma

Protect Mental Health Funding: Open letter to Brian Cowen

Please take some time to print out the letter below and send it to your local politicians. The stats below are just a few examples of how mental health issues are being seriously neglected in Ireland.


In the past four years mental health has been subject to savage cuts. Since 2006 mental health spending has been reduced by 9.2 per cent. Currently, just 5.3 per cent of the overall health spend goes on mental health.


Over half of all HSE staff cuts last year were from mental health, despite it making up only 9 per cent of the health workforce.

Troubled teens not seeking vital help


By Katherine Donnelly

Tuesday October 19 2010

ONE-in-five 15-year-olds in Ireland is struggling with a mental health issue, which may involve suicidal thoughts, a major new survey reveals.

But many troubled teenagers are not seeking or getting the necessary help. Parents are overwhelmingly the most common form of support for students, the study found, but not all teenagers share concerns with them.

And troubled teens don’t make much use of helplines or access websites, such as those provided by youth organisations, which offer guidance. The study, by child psychologists at Dublin’s Mater Hospital, examined levels of emotional distress, mental health literacy, coping skills and attitudes to help-seeking among 1,500 15-year-olds.

One of its key, preliminary findings is that those with high stress levels to begin with, benefit relatively more from interventions designed to help their coping skills. Now the Mater team has launched a programme for use in Social Personal and Health Education classes in schools.

Using DVDs, it is based on stories of young people who presented to the Mater’s child and adolescent mental health services clinic, with emotional issues like bullying, family conflict, eating disorders and suicide ideation. Their experiences form the content of the programme, which features the young people speaking candidly about their most successful coping strategies. Initially tested in 17 schools, the programme is now being made more widely available. Clinical psychologist Mike Power said it was designed to be used in schools to help students to confront issues that may be causing them stress.

He said clinicians were reporting higher levels of eating disorders, body image problems, self-harming, alcoholism and substance abuse among teenagers. “School is a very important part of the social mix young people are exposed to and teachers are at the frontline in confronting these and other mental health issues,” he said.

Mr Power said that both theoretically, and financially, it made sense to try and address pupils’ emotional problems at the earliest possible stage. “Left untreated, emotional problems gain force and expand to negatively encompass many significant aspects of a child’s thinking, feelings and behaviour,” he said.


The data from the study provides a fascinating insight into how teenagers today cope with life and the problems they face. While analysis of this data is still in the early stages, some broad trends are clear. While youngsters tend to reach out to parents with their personal problems, the influence of the peer group, especially for girls, is huge. Some students resist confiding in their parents because they don’t want to “worry them”.

Despite the plethora of youth mental help agencies, teenagers tended not to use them due to lack of awareness, misinformation or embarrassment. The Mater study also found high levels of emotional resiliency, positivity and hope among teenagers with issues.

– Katherine Donnelly

Irish Independent


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200 minors admitted to adult psychiatric hospitals last year

By Eilish O’Regan

Tuesday June 22 2010

Some 200 children and adolescents under the age of 18 were admitted to adult psychiatric hospitals last year.

Twelve young people under the age of 16 were among those treated in adult units — despite longstanding promises to provide suitable beds in juvenile facilities.

The vast majority taken in by adult hospitals (94pc) were aged between 16 and 17, according to figures released by the Mental Health Commission.

Overall, there were 365 young people admitted to psychiatric units last year. Ten of these were admitted involuntarily and had to be detained against their will.

The ongoing problem of insufficient in-patient beds in child units comes on top of continuing delays for young people who need to see a psychiatrist.

In 2009, 562 children waited more than a year to see a psychiatrist. Another 623 were on a waiting list for between six and nine months, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

A further 516 children faced a delay of three to six months while around a third of those on a waiting list — 907 — were seen in less than three months.

The 50 child and adolescent mental health community services reported that a total of 2,608 young people were waiting to be seen by a psychiatrist at the end of December last.

This figure, however, represents a drop of 1,101 from the first complete survey of such waiting lists in March, 2007.

The HSE said the ultimate target was that 100pc of children referred would be seen “within three months”. The aim is to have 70pc seen in three months this year and 100pc over the next three to five years.

SIPTU national nursing official Louise O’Reilly, who represents psychiatric nurses, said the recent report of the Mental Health Commission made for highly uncomfortable reading which highlighted the inhumane conditions in some adult mental health hospitals.


The report, published last week, recommended the closure of three mental health hospitals, St Ita’s and St Brendan’s in Dublin, and St Senan’s in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

“These facilities fail to live up to what the patients and staff deserve but it is wrong to write them off without looking at the alternatives,” she said.

“The closure of these units to admissions from next February without adequate investment in community services will mean that the State is turning its back on this most vulnerable group yet again.”

– Eilish O’Regan

Irish Independent