Woman in direct provision centre took her own life

An asylum seeker who took her own life after 15 months in the State’s direct provision system was being treated for psychiatric illness, an inquest heard yesterday.

Cork City coroner Philip Comyn returned a verdict of suicide after hearing evidence in relation to the death of a 36-year-old South Korean national at the Kinsale Rd direct provision accommodation centre on the outskirts of Cork City on August 28 last.

The inquest was told that the woman, who was from the Jongno Gu district in Seoul, had arrived in Ireland from South Korea, via Abu Dhabi, in May 2015.

She was processed at the Reception and Integration Agency’s (RIA) reception centre at Balseskin, Dublin, where she underwent a full medical assessment.

RIA principal officer Eugene Banks told the coroner that most people in the State’s protection system — those seeking either refuge or asylum — spend up to five weeks at Balseskin before being offered accommodation in a direct provision centre, managed under contract to RIA.

Mr Banks said the woman spent about three months at Balseskin, and that longer stays here are usually for medical reasons.

She was transferred, along with her medical records, to a direct provision centre in Killarney in August 2015, before being transferred a short time later to the Kinsale Rd facility where she would be closer to certain acute and support services.

The inquest established the woman attended Dr Shirley Cotter at a GP practice in the city in September 2015.

In a report read into the record, Dr Cotter described her as a “quiet and soft-spoken lady”, and said she had attended several psychiatric sessions elsewhere but was not adhering to her medication regime.

Dr Cotter said the woman told her she was estranged from her family, had left South Korea “due to family difficulties”, and that her mother suffered from depression and her sister had “psychiatric issues”.

She said the woman had paranoid ideation and low mood, and was admitted voluntarily for psychiatric treatment at Cork University Hospital in January 2016.

She said the woman attended her practice three times in the two weeks before her death, and was prescribed pain medication for severe neck and back pain due to soft tissue injury.

She attended a locum at Dr Cotter’s practice on August 28, the morning of her death, but the inquest was told that her request for more pain medication was denied.

Denise Wallace, manager of the Kinsale Rd centre, told the coroner that she spoke to the woman several times in the days before her death, and that while she was aware of her mental difficulties, she said the woman didn’t really want to talk about it — only about her neck pain.

Ms Wallace said that when the woman returned from the GP on August 28, she tried to bring forward an appointment for her to see a pain specialist, but said it would be two weeks before she could be seen.

“I tried to reassure her. She seemed fine, bar the pain she was in,” said Ms Wallace.

She told the coroner that after she spoke to the woman on the morning of August 28, she thought she was doing well, that she was laughing and smiling, but that she was distraught about her neck pain.

The woman was last seen in the centre’s canteen at 1.06pm getting her dinner.

Security guard Derry Field, said he found her body in her room around 7.45pm, and raised the alarm. She was pronounced dead at the scene at 8.20pm.

Mr Comyn said he was satisfied, based on the evidence, the woman took her own life.

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