The three-year pilot project is aimed at developing a fast-track priority referral system from primary care for people experiencing a suicidal crisis. The Cluain Mhuire Service in Blackrock, Co Dublin, has received funding from the National Office of Suicide Prevention to pay for a crisis assessment nurse who will work with GPs based in the south-east area of Dublin.
The service also plans to have a second rural-based nurse appointed in the near future so that the needs of both rural and urban patients at risk of self-harm can be assessed.
Psychiatrist and clinical director of the Cluain Mhuire Service Dr Siobhán Barry pointed out that improving access to quality mental health services was one of the essential components of the national suicide prevention strategy Reach Out, launched by the Government in September 2005. The strategy proposed having a fast-track priority referral system from primary care to community based mental health services for individuals experiencing a suicidal crisis and Cluain Mhuire asked to be considered as a pilot site for that particular recommendation.
Dr Barry said the clinical assessment nurse would also act as an educational resource for GPs and also other locally based primary-care services. “While suicide has been associated with serious mental illness, many people die by suicide and they have no history that their families can ever ascertain that would indicate that they were in any mental trouble prior to the event,” she pointed out.
She explained that any person who indicated to their GP and that they were thinking of harming themselves would be referred to a crisis-intervention nurse.
“The nurse will undertake to see the person within hours of the referral,” she explained. And, she said, some people would need to be directed to the kind of service that was most likely to be of help to them which may not be in the mental health services.
“What we will be offering will be similar to a triage service so that we can have people seen quickly and directed towards the kind of help they need,” she said.
Fine Gael’s deputy health spokesman Dan Neville welcomed the development but said it again demonstrated the absences of services in the community for people in crisis that were recommended and accepted as Government policy over the past 22 years.