Thursday 14 December 2017

'I had suicidal thoughts but felt worthless and just lost hope waiting for treatment' - Sarah (15)

Teenager suffering from mental health difficulties 'lost hope' while waiting for treatment

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Rebecca Lumley

A teenager suffering from mental health difficulties has told of how she "lost hope" in getting better because of having to wait so long for treatment.

Sarah (15) was forced to wait 18 months for an appointment with a psychiatrist, despite having engaged in self-harm and having suicidal thoughts.

The Wexford teenager, who has just completed her Junior Cert, spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about the under-resourced mental health services.

She said: "I lost hope in everything. I lost hope in actually seeking help and getting better and I saw no future.

"It made me worse. It made me think that nobody actually cares, even the people that actually train in this don’t understand. It made me (suffer) a big low of depression again. It made me feel worthless and useless."

Sarah first experienced mental health problems at 10 years-old. She told of how she felt she was trapped in a cycle of thoughts about death and the afterlife, which would disrupt her sleep and leave her fearful and anxious.

She continued: "I used to have to stay at home and I wouldn’t like going into school by myself. It was constant from the minute I woke up to the minute I fell asleep.

"Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep and I’d be awake throughout the night, there were some nights that I wouldn’t sleep at all. It could be two or three nights in a row that I’d be wide awake because I wouldn’t want to close my eyes in case something happened."

Sarah said her emotions fluctuated and that she "switched like a bulb" to anger. She described turning to self-harm in her pre-teen years.

She said: "It came on because I felt as though I was alone, that no-one was really listening to my cries for help. It was just kind of an urge, it was like it relieved the pain I was feeling."

While she was receiving counselling, Sarah’s condition deteriorated further, and she began to contemplate suicide.

She described going out for a walk in her local area and planning not to come back.

When she confided in her parents, Sarah’s medication was changed and the family began to lobby for Sarah to receive treatment from a psychiatrist.

She was given an appointment under the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) after 18 months of waiting. According to Newstalk Breakfast, more than 2,500 children and teenagers on waiting lists to receive treatment.

There are areas of the country that currently have no consulting psychiatrist, which Sarah argued was essential.

She said: "From my point of view, I’d feel a lot safer if I knew there was someone there 24/7 to help me in my local community. I’d feel as though the Government was actually doing something for mental health."

Ireland has the fourth highest rate of teen suicide out of 37 wealthy, mostly European countries, according to a recent Unicef report.

According to the Unicef report, 10.3 adolescents died by suicide per 100,000 people in Ireland between 2012 and 2013.

If you are affected by issues raised in this article you can call  Samaritans 116 123 or email

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