‘The health system let us down’- Father hits out after son (22) took his own life in hospital after four attempts
A grieving father has criticised the mental health system after his young son took his own life in hospital, after four previous attempts.
Ryan Dempsey was 22-years-old when he died by suicide.
His dad Fran Dempsey told Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio 1 that the “system failed” him and his family.
According to Fran, his son Ryan was extremely family-orientated and had a good group of friends.
When he was 18, Ryan came out as gay to his parents and just four years later he took his own life on November 3 2014.
“Ryan was amazing. From the time he could talk he wanted to be an actor. He was always somebody else,” dad Fran told Ray D’Arcy.
Fran and his wife Michelle had three other sons and said Ryan loved family time.
“He always picked the movies because that was his thing. He was a beautiful child.”
Fran said that during family time “there was nothing out of the ordinary”.
“He pulled away from his friends and he was kind of a loner. But he spoke mostly to his cousin Shaun.”
When Ryan came out to his family as gay, they instantly accepted it.
“He sat me down in the kitchen and he said, ‘Da...’, and I said, ‘Son, you don’t have to tell me, I know, you’re a beautiful kid...’ and we hugged for about five minutes and it was great. I can actually still feel that hug,” said Fran.
The father said Ryan became withdrawn and they would often have to tell him to come out of his room.
“He would spend a lot of time in his bedroom alone so we would tell him to come out and watch a film with us. We got a bit worried then but we were all still talking. He had a lot of relationship problems.
After attempting suicide several times, Ryan was in and out of hospital.
“We pleaded with the hospital to take him in. We were on 24 hour watch. Nobody would listen to us. They kept saying that because Ryan was over 21 that they would listen to Ryan and not us.
“They spoke to Ryan and me first. I was asked to leave and Ryan was spoken to and then they spoke to me. Ryan was smart. We were trying to look out for our son.
“He was attending a health centre in Inchicore but again Ryan would come home and say this isn’t right for me. He wanted to be alone but he was put in groups.”
He was sent to a GP after again attempting suicide.
“He said ‘Da, all I want is a relationship like you and Ma’.
“He had changed. He was angry a lot.
“He wasn’t diagnosed with anything but we kept saying he had to be depressed. He would shut himself up in a dark room.”
One night Ryan came to his dad and asked to be admitted to hospital.
“He said ‘I have to go, you have to bring me to the hospital’. We brought him up to the A&E and he was put in a room that was like a cell, it was horrible. He was on a fifteen minute watch.
“At half two that night we got a call to say that Ryan had taken his own life. It didn’t really sink in. It had happened four times before hand. I couldn’t believe it really happened.
“My wife and son went up to the hospital and said Ryan was in the intensive care unit. We went into the ICU and Ryan had wires all over him. The nurse said to me ‘I’m very sorry’ so I kind of knew he wasn’t coming back. I knew he was brain dead but they kept him on life support for three or four days and we donated his organs which he wanted anyway.”
Fran said that Ryan wanted to donate his organs from an early age and that “his life saved many others”.
“We got a letter from the man who got his heart and it was lovely.
“It said he saved his life and the guy who got his kidney was on death’s door and he had a new-born baby. He saved a lot of lives as well.”
Fran said he’s angry with the health system and feels they “let him down”.
“I’m not bitter but I’m angry. They told us he was on a 15 minute watch but he couldn’t have been.”
He begged health professionals to “listen”.
“Please listen to the ordinary people, it’s happening everywhere. Listen to what needs to be done and put the resources in. No family should have to go through what we did. My home isn’t the same, me and my wife aren’t the same.”
Fran who is now getting counselling said the grief caused him to try and take his own life too.
“It won’t happen again I assure you. I have a great family and friends behind me.
“My nephew passed away from suicide eight years ago too and they were left absolutely devastated. His family have broken up.”
Fran is now campaigning for a better mental health system.
“A&E isn’t trained to look after people with mental health issues. We need specialists and better mental health programmes.
“No family should have to go through this.”
If you have been affected by any issues raised in this article, please contact The Samaritans free helpline on 116 123.