Medic Slams ‘Chaotic’ Care For Mentally-ill

A leading Ulster psychologist last night described psychiatric provision in Northern Ireland as “fragmented and chaotic”.

Dr Arthur Cassidy said: “While there are many superb psychiatrists in the province, the service is very poorly funded. People simply don’t know where to go for help, often no help is available, and lives are lost as a result.”

Dr Cassidy’s mobile voluntary service, Creation, operates from a caravan in Portadown, where he counsels and offers special therapies to young people.

“The reality is that too much is left to the voluntary sector,” he claimed. There is only so much that people like myself can do.”

He gave two examples of his work last weekend.

“On Sunday morning at 2.50, a young man told me he had actually approached a psychiatrist only to be told that the services weren’t there and he was told to come to us for counselling and therapy.

“Then, I put myself in the shoes of someone who was suicidal and was seeking help through Yellow Pages. The truth is that services available are very difficult to decipher by that or any other method, and the few I eventually found and tried were continuously engaged.

“Frankly, if anyone felt like shooting themselves and then went to seek help, the trauma of that procedure would make them even more suicidal.

“Services are grossly under-funded, they are fragmented and chaotic, and the time has come for government agencies to set up a network that is easy to seek out and which affords comprehensive services of diagnosis and treatment.”

Dr Cassidy said that teenage suicides were still the most common in the province, and were triggered by a sense of not belonging, of feeling the burdens of life and by impulse – “often a copy-cat culture triggered by alcohol, the internet and watching videos”.

In older people, he went on, acute depression was the main reason.

“The use of guns is a more recent phenomenon,” he said. “In the past, it was invariably by drowning, later hanging, while older people have more recently used guns. It’s a complex situation to understand and explain.”