The mother of a 36-year-old man whose body was recovered from the river Boyne last Christmas has accused the country's mental services of "abandoning" her son when he most needed help.
Mary Gallagher was speaking at an inquest into her son Derek's death conducted by Meath Coroner Nathaniel Lacy at Our Lady's Hospital, Navan. It is the second time within a few weeks that the mental health services have come in for criticism over the treatment of patients.
The inquest into Mr Gallagher's death as told that he was last seen on 30th November last. A search of the river Boyne was conducted by Meath River Rescue, Meath Civil Defence, Garda Underwater Unit, the Army and volunteers and his body was recovered at Blackcastle, Navan on 26th December last.
Consultant pathologist Dr Muna Sabah said that a post mortem she carried out showed that Mr Gallagher had died by drowning and a verdict to that effect was returned by Mr Lacy. The coroner and Garda Inspector Peter Gilsenan expressed their sympathy to the family of the deceased.
As the inquest was coming to an end, Mr Gallagher's mother Mary said she wanted to make a statement about his death. She said that the "mental health services in this country are a national disgrace. Two Gardai did their duty when they came across Derek and brought him to the mental health services unit in Drogheda. But instead of keeping him, the mental health services sent him away with a handful of pills. It's happening every day of the week and it's nothing but a national scandal. It's not right. If he had not been allowed out [of the unit] that night, we would not be here [at the inquest] tonight".
The coroner said he could only imagine what Ms Gallagher and her family were going through.
Criticism of the mental health services was also expressed at an inquest held in June this year into the death of Enda Cully (32), Mount Sion, Longwood, who died by suicide on 29th August last year. Mr Cully's family told the inquest, also conducted by Mr Lacy, that while they appreciated the health services were udner tremendous pressure, especially mental health services, they were concerned that the health service, knowing Enda's mental history, "saw fit to discharge him".
The family said he had dialed 999 on 24th August last looking for help and had told the operator that he felt he was a danger to himself and others. This was the first time in his illness that he himself had asked for help, the family said. He was seen in Blanchardstown Hospital and was told he would get the first available bed in the psychiatric unit in Drogheda. His sister Aiveen told those treating him that because of his history he needed to be seen by a psychiatrist. He had waited for eight hours and was discharged on Friday 25th August "with five tablets and an appointment for Wednesday 30th August 2017 with the medical team in Navan".
The family said that Enda's death had left them devastated. "Why was Enda discharged despite ticking all the boxed as being a high suicide risk/ Who made the decision to discharge him? Was this made by a mental health professional/ We can't bring Enda back but changes need to be made urgently to the mental health services. We don't want another family going through what we are going through. Sending a suicidal person home with five tablets is not good enough".
His illness had taken "his past and his present and the inadequacies in the mental health services may very well have taken his future", the family added.