A Donegal survivor of self-harm would likely have died had she not been treated in Derry after failing to get help in her own county, Sinn Féin’s Pádraig MacLochlainn has said.
The Buncrana-based Senator raised the young woman’s case in a debate in the Seanad during which he branded gaps in mental health services in the South as ‘disgraceful.’
“Thankfully, the young woman survived the utterly disgraceful failure of the State and her family got through it all, although they had to cross the border to get help. While she is thriving, I wonder how many young people are in early graves because of our societal failure,” he said.
Senator MacLochlainn raised the woman’s case during the passage of the Mental Health (Capacity To Consent To Treatment) Bill, 2018 through the Oireachtas.
The Inishowen Sinn Féin Senator is one of the sponsors of the Bill, which will provide for the right of minors over the age of 16 to consent to mental health treatment.
Speaking during the Second Stage reading of the legislation in the Seanad, Senator MacLochlainn said: “I knew a family in Donegal and learned this story after the event. The daughter was self-harming on an ongoing basis.
“The family were deeply alarmed and repeatedly sought psychiatric assistance for their daughter in Donegal and each time each time they could not get it. This happened not long ago.”
Senator MacLochlainn said the family were left with nowhere to turn to and forced to look to the health services in the North for help.
“They brought her to Derry city where the health services broke the rules by treating her and thank God they did, because I am not sure that young woman would still be alive today otherwise.
“She got the help she needed and today she is thriving. She has her degree sorted, has graduated and is in professional work. That is the reality of the failure for young people,” he maintained.
He said he believed the Bill would allow young people to make decisions about their own mental health and treatment where necessary.
“It is another step in the right direction, not just in giving support services to young people but empowering young people to make decisions for themselves, with professionals, in the event that their family may not be stepping up to do what needs to be done,” he said.
Anyone in the North can call the Lifeline helpline for free on 0808 808 8000.
For those living in the South contact Pieta House North West on (00353) 7491 26594 or its national centre, on freecall 1800247247 or text HELP to 51444.