New Reference Card For Mental Health Services

A reference card for mental health services in the south of the Ireland has been drawn up in a bid to prevent suicides. Just a week after an inquest into the drownings of a young mother and her two daughters branded the social services a disgrace, the Health Services Executive (HSE) South said a range of measures for suicide prevention and for those affected by suicide have been developed. “People who feel they are in crisis for whatever reason, need to know they are not alone,” Sean McCarthy, Mental Health Resource Officer with the HSE South, said.

“We have produced an easy reference card called ‘Help and Support – Only a Phonecall away’ with a list of Wexford-based local health service numbers, local support numbers and regional and national support groups numbers. These were distributed to Wexford households in 2004 and are currently available from the regional HSE Mental Health Resource Office.”

A jury at last week’s inquest into the death of Sharon Grace and her two children was highly critical of the failure of social services to improve their procedures a year and a half after their deaths.

Mrs Grace, 28, from Barntown, Co Wexford, called to the reception of Ely Hospital just outside Wexford town seeking a social worker around 7.30pm on Saturday evening, April 16, 2005. She left with her two young daughters – Mikhala, four, and Abby, three, – after being told social workers worked from Monday to Friday and they had no emergency contact numbers for social services. The receptionist offered to phone the General Hospital to get a phone number but Mrs Grace declined.

Hours later four fishermen discovered their bodies floating alongside each other at the Kaat’s Strand area of the River Slaney in Co Wexford. The inquest heard there was still no list of emergency phone numbers for social services at the hospital reception 18-months later.

The HSE said some of the services on offer in the Wexford area include the Wexford Self-Harm Intervention Service which operates from Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm, on 053 9174050.

The HSE said anyone needing support and therapy at night or over the weekend should contact Caredoc, where trained professionals can assist or visit Wexford General Hospital’s Emergency Department.

Community-based social work services are provided from Monday to Friday, from 9am until 5pm. Outside of that people can access health services on a 24-hour basis through GPs’ out-of-hour services or through A&E services and local mental health services.

The HSE said a clinical nurse specialist has been operating in A&E at Wexford General Hospital since 2002 as part of a mental health intervention project for people who have harmed themselves.

Since January 2003 around 1,170 people have been treated for self-harm, including 470 males and 700 females.

The HSE has put in place a professional bereavement counselling service available free of c
harge to bereaved individuals and families through GPs.

Health services said there is a training programme co-ordinated by the Regional Suicide Resource Office training available for HSE staff, statutory bodies, voluntary and community groups, schools and other individuals.

Since 2002, over 1,690 people in the Wexford area have received training.