A young city woman who has severe depression and anxiety, and is on a waiting list to attend a psychologist on the public health system, fears that lives will be lost as already pressurised local mental health services come under further strain.
She has been waiting seven months so far for an appointment and at times has been “close to the edge”, she says.
She believes the “huge under-funding” of the service coupled with the strain on it from increased demand is to blame for this delay.
The woman, who is under 25 years and wishes to remain anonymous, says she “battled” with the condition since she was in her pre-teens but only sought help from her GP early last year.
“After a period of not feeling able to seek help following a few half-hearted attempts, in April of last year I finally made the plunge to go to a GP. I was referred to psychiatry, assured that from there I would be referred to psychology as I thought I really needed that and the doctor agreed,” she says.
“I believe it was July when I had my consultation with psychiatry and they contacted psychology for me. Through this time I have been tried on several medications, getting some relief for anxiety but nothing helping my worsening depression. I was advised by a psychiatrist to go to Jigsaw [a mental health support service for young people] or No 4 [St Augustine Street, a drop-in support centre for people under 25] also but no hint as to the actual reason why since my psychology appointment was coming up.”
She says that other than “a couple of assurances” that she was on the waiting list for the psychology service she did not get an update until the end of last month.
“I received a letter re my psychology referral. I think it shows the huge under-funding of, strain on, and lack of mental health services in Galway and across the country. The letter states that unfortunately due to an upcoming maternity leave it is not possible to provide an estimate of my waiting time for my appointment. I will be contacted when it becomes available.”
The woman asks does this mean that there is only one available psychologist for all of Galway city. “Surely people’s lives and health can’t be jeopardised by a natural occurrence [maternity leave] like that? How can the department not be prepared or equipped? People get pregnant, it happens, but why does that mean my urgent appointment now hangs in the balance, along with others? Why were no arrangements made and no money made available for a fill-in? It has been at least seven months of a wait so far and at times I’ve been close to the edge. It now looks like I’m in for more of a long-haul wait.”
She believes she is one of the “lucky ones”, over 15 and under 25 years, so she can avail of Jigsaw and other mental health and counselling services available to young people.
However, she is concerned about the people who fall outside this age limit. “How many of them will die during this “unfortunate” and “indefinite” wait? Could you image the same scenario for people suffering from cancer or heart disease? Yes, it’s great that there are some mental health services for young people in certain cities but this shouldn’t be where we have to go to get help, to get treatment for our illness. We shouldn’t have to seek outside help, it’s absurd when you think about it. But I don’t have any options. And so I wait. How many others are waiting?”