Saturday 10 December 2016

‘The difference between services in Dublin and the countryside is shocking’ – Young woman’s experience living with a mental illness in Ireland

Published 10/10/2016 | 12:10

Catherine Malone spoke about her experience with mental health services in Ireland.
Catherine Malone spoke about her experience with mental health services in Ireland.
Catherine moved from Clare to Dublin five years ago.

Today marks World Mental Health Day, but for Catherine Malone (28), and thousands of other people around the country, mental health is something she deals with everyday.

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Catherine, from Co. Clare, moved to Dublin five years ago to study. She has dealt with issues with her mental health since she was six years old, and said that the difference in services between Dublin and the countryside are vast.

“My mental health experience has changed very much since I moved to Dublin five years ago,” she told Independent.ie.

“It’s completely different in the country. There are fewer resources, less education, the attitude is completely different. It was very difficult to get services to support mental health issues in Clare.”

“I was very young when I started having problems with my mental health. I was six years old. I went to therapy first, and then my anxiety started manifesting into OCD. I’ve always struggled with anxiety.”

“It’s emotionally and physically draining, which means it can spiral into depression,” she explained.

“It’s very overwhelming. It can go away for a while when you get a hold of it, then it manifests as something else, like panic attacks or agoraphobia.”

Catherine said that when she came to Dublin to study Contemporary Culture and Society in Dublin City University, she saw a huge difference in the quality of services and resources available for mental health.

Catherine moved from Clare to Dublin five years ago.
Catherine moved from Clare to Dublin five years ago.

“They had an amazing level of understanding and services,” she said.

 “When I went to DCU, in my third year around November 2014, my mental health was worse than before. I went to a psychiatrist on the Tuesday and was an inpatient in St. Pat’s by the Friday. St. Pat’s has been the single most helpful tool during my recovery.”

“I’ve been there three times over the last three to four years. The longest I’ve stayed is three months, and the shortest is two months. It’s so helpful that when you can’t function.  The nurses are there 24/7, it’s a safe environment and it’s a step back from the world.”

“However, you can’t access the services without health insurance. It’s financially impossible.”

“In Clare, there was nowhere to go, no one to turn to. The psychiatric unit there was horrible. There’s only one unit, so there’s people of all ages and different levels of illness. In Pat’s there’s an adolescent unit and it’s like a hotel, with your own room and ensuite.”

“I’ve been on medication since I was 15, for different situations and different problems. It has to get to a certain point for hospitalisation. Life is so fast-paced, sometimes you need to step back and step away from the world.”

Catherine said that there’s also a huge difference in the attitudes of GPs towards mental health.

“My experience with GPs has been mixed. Each GP has a different level of education on mental health, which means there’s a line in the sand between the country and Dublin, so to speak.”

“In Dublin it’s easier to get medication. My GP liaises with St. Patrick’s Hospital and they work together very well here.”

“The connection wasn’t a strong when I was an outpatient in Clare. The waiting list between GPs and psychiatrists is so long, and public services are underfunded.”

While mental health is becoming an issue that’s discussed more frequently each day, Catherine said that stigma around the issue is still prevalent.

“The stigma surrounding mental health has definitely improved – there’s a new culture of people sharing their experiences online.”

“It’s no longer socially acceptable to hold stigma, although it is still there. Hopefully in two to three generations it will be normalised. Celebrities have kind of glamorized mental illness, but there’s nothing glamorous about it.”

“It’s like if you break your leg; it’s okay if you do, it’s okay if you don’t. Once you get help, that’s what matters.”

Catherine has a mental health and beauty blog at mentallybeautiful.com.

For more information about mental health or if you or someone you know needs help, visit samaritans.org or contact Samaritans on 116123.

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