Health authority told to ‘get real’
The HSE has been urged to “get real” after a response to calls for more to be done to tackle suicide rates locally was met with widespread criticism from county councillors.
Cavan County Council wrote to the organisation calling for an urgent review of supports given to schools to tackle mental health and suicide in Cavan after a number of high profile cases of suicide in the region in recent months.
The HSE was described as “kidding themselves” by Cllr Aiden Fitzpatrick (FF), who said the response it sent only listed “what’s already happening”.
In an emotional speech at this week’s local authority meeting, he said people are not getting over suicide because there’s a lack of support and counselling available.
“The letter only tells us what’s happening every day, which we all already knew. After a suicide it says the HSE goes to the local hall with leaflets. That’s it. You’re left on your own.
“Our children are out there, they haven’t got over suicide. It’s happening everyday. It’s not good enough. I want a pilot scheme started in Cavan to look at how we tackle the problem of suicide.
“I know of some place not too far from here. There were five suicides in one week. Suicide is happening every day and it’s being talked about and forgotten about.”
He blamed data protection regulation - GDPR - for a breakdown in services, with people being forced to look for help themselves as the HSE says it’s prevented from making contact with them directly.
Councillors backed up the claims and were highly critical of the HSE.
“The health system is hiding. It’s doing nothing about it,” said Cllr Brendan Fay (Ind).
“People need something to help. The HSE are hiding behind GDPR.”
Independent Councillor Shane P O’Reilly, who also works as an undertaker, said he’s all too familiar with suicide.
“I have to deal with the other end of it at the coalface of it. We, as a county, have the highest rate of youth suicide in the country. Aiden isn’t frustrated. Aiden is heartbroken...
"This response is a slap in the mouth. The Minister has to get to grips with it. No county needs supports more than Cavan at this present time. Are we going to wait to attend more and more funerals of young people taking their own lives in this county?”
Fianna Fáil’s Phillip Brady read part of the response into the record in which the HSE highlighted the work it does following a suicide to provide supports and information to schools and GAA and other sports clubs. However, he lambasted the response.
“The HSE provides very little to the GAA or teachers. The HSE is nowhere to be seen. People are told to ring Doc-on-call at the weekends.”
The organisation was described as “top heavy” by Cllr Sarah O’Reilly (Aontu), with too many administrators and managers and not enough counsellors.
“It’s impossible to get counselling. There’s too much bureaucracy, we need a direct approach.”
She also urged the council to invite Christine Wynne from SOSAD and the HSE’s suicide prevention officer Emer Mulligan to make presentations to elected members on the services they provide and work they do.
Cllr Shane P O’Reilly praised Emer Mulligan for the work she is doing across Cavan and Monaghan but highlighted that she is a “lone voice trying to do the job”.
“It would seem to be that there’s a hierarchy there that are not listening to the concerns that she is putting forward or those that we as elected representatives are putting forward”, he said.
Other councillors also spoke on the motion, including Cllr John Paul Feeley (FF) who proposed the council write to the Minister to seek a meeting to discuss the issue.
Cathaoirleach Clifford Kelly also proposed the council write to the HSE CEO and the Secretary General of the Department of Health “to make them aware of the situation”.