My Experience of Mental Health Services in Ireland
It is difficult to start writing about an experience so personal, let alone when factoring in stigma and the nature of the experience, which was alienating and unsupportive in general.
I began availing of the mental health service in Ireland when I was 19. I was in my 1st year of college and as issues surfaced along with an alcohol dependency, I decided to seek the support of the college conselling service. As the pressure began to build in my final year, I resorted to self-harm to deal with mounting issues. After one such incident, in desperation, I went to the college doctor who prescribed anti-depressants. At that point, I entered into the psychiatric service.
This experience isn’t black and white; there were some very helpful and encouraging mental health professional I met along the way however, the overarching experience is one of despair. I felt like it didn’t matter what I said, I was never heard. The judgment was final; I was depressed and in need of medication. I tried explaining that I did not feel down for extended periods and on the contrary, my moods would fluctuate wildly, sometimes daily. The clinician made notes, asked questions only requiring a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and then made a judgement; depressed.
Eventually I realised that it didn’t matter what I said, so I began to use this to my advantage and to justify my own attempts to self-medicate. I suffered from anxiety and would request Valium, which the clinician readily prescribed. A year later I was weaned off Valium, after begin diagnosed as chemically dependent. I was also warned that this may effect my job prospects in the future, should an employer request my medical records. I decided, for the sake of my future, that I wouldn’t avail of the mental health service again.
However, things got progressively worse to the point that I ended up in hospital and again was referred to a psychiatrist. I relayed my history to the clinician, including a history of addiction to Valium. The clinician nodded and took notes, made the judgment ‘depressed’ and prescribed Valium for anxiety. I threw away the prescription and again vowed to deal with issues myself and never to speak to a psychiatrist again.
Two trips to the A&E later, I was referred to a psychiatrist for what I thought was more nodding and note taking. He asked questions, I responded with the expected ‘yes’ ‘no’ answers but this time, unusually, he asked me to elaborate.
This lead to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder which I have been successfully treated for after years of medication, counseling and support.
Today, I’m grateful to those who listened and did not rush to judgment.
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