Poots lays down 'clear' challenge to Trust on mental health

Published: 13 Sep 2012 14:300 comments

THE Western Trust is under fire from the Health Minister over the way it deals with vulnerable patients in Fermanagh.

Health Minister Edwin Poots.

Edwin Poots has challenged the Trust to respond "appropriately" to those seeking help from depression and suicidal thoughts and has appealed to concerned patients and their families to "press very hard" if they are not happy with the services on offer.

In August two young women aged 18 and 23 years old died of suspected drugs overdoses in Enniskillen and Trillick.

And last week a 21-year-old man spoke of his difficulty in getting psychiatric help from medical professionals in order to stop himself from trying to take his own life again.

The young man who has tried to kill himself three times told this newspaper: "I am hurting, I need it to stop and whether that's by ending my life or getting help, I don't know. If the help is not there then I am going to go for the first option... I don't want to be here any more."

As the mental health team at Belmore House in Enniskillen admit they are seeing a "huge amount" of referrals for people, including teenagers who are suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts, Mr Poots has laid down the gauntlet to the health authorities in Fermanagh.

"I wouldn't want to be hearing that people who have identified problems, and their families, have been looking for help and haven't been given sufficient help. I would lay down a very clear challenge to the Western Trust on this issue that they do need to be ensuring that people are responded to appropriately," he told The Impartial Reporter.

The Minister added: "The first port of call for anyone feeling this way is their GP who should be referring people to psychiatric help where a mental health is the issue. People should be seeking help and loved ones should be pressing very hard if they feel they are not getting support for their family member; they should be pressing that situation very hard."

Responding to Mr. Poots' comments the Trust said it wanted to "provide its assurances" that appropriate services are offered to patients and clients. "A wide range of support is available and anyone who presents to our services has full access to the support available," said a spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Mr. Poots has described the sudden death of a teenager on Saturday as "shocking".

"These things are so tragic; a young life that has so much to offer, so much to look out for."

With World Suicide Prevention Day earlier this week the Health Minister says it is important that the services within his department are delivered to those who need help most, and that includes rural areas such as Fermanagh.

"Unfortunately only around 30 per cent of people have actually identified that they do have mental health issues; 70 per cent of suicides haven't given any indication that they have health issues at a statutory level and therefore makes it very hard.

"There is help out there and whilst suicide may seem to be a good idea whenever you are a state of despair if you actually take the time to talk to people and look at your problems and get a bit of help you will very quickly discover it is not a good option -- it is the worst possible option that you could take," he said.

Mr Poots said his department is also keen to tackle the maltreatment of children, particularly younger children and added: "There are children who have been mistreated by their family and are much more likely to attempt suicide and indeed, young people who may attempt it are the victims of people who are the victims of bullying. Teachers, social services, need to be looking out for the signs."

The Health Minister's thoughts are echoed by Angela Treacy, Primary Care Team Manager at Belmore House.

Responding to criticism from the young suicidal man who was interviewed in this newspaper last week and said he didn't feel he was getting any help, Ms Treacy said: "I can't talk for confidential reasons about any specific case -- though I am aware of this one -- but what I can tell you is I would hope as the team manager that we provide a very prompt, timely service to people like that and be available to go to the South West Acute Hospital to carry out assessments within two hours."

She has worked in Belmore House for 21 years and has found the nature of her staff's work has changed considerably in that time.

"There is a lot of pressure on young people today," she said, "There is depression out there and a lot of illicit drug use which contributes to it too. On many occasions the patients we assess and carry out a mental and risk assessment on at the hospital very often have used illicit drugs, primarily the younger age groups," adding that other contributory factors include: schizophrenia, bi-polar, peer pressure and stress.

Ms Treacy said she would be reinforcing and supporting the Health Minister's view that patients must be treated appropriately and explained that services on offer here will be moving to a modern, up-to-date, more patient friendly facility at the new hospital soon.

"I would hope and be confident that we provide a very accessible service to patients because that's what we are here for. All our practitioners are very highly skilled and well qualified with vast experience and I have no doubt that patients get the best quality of care here in Fermanagh," she said.

Need help?

Health officials say suicide is a preventable phenomenon if given the right support and they welcome bringing the discussion of suicide into the public arena to challenge the idea of it as a taboo subject.

If you need somebody to talk to or advice here are some helpline numbers and useful website addresses: Telephone the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

The helpline is available 24-hours a day. You can also e-mail jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org/ireland.

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