Call for better recording of suicide in cases where help sought

Psychiatric nurses have called for a more comprehensive recording system to identify patients who died by suicide because they did not get the treatment they needed.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) is extremely concerned that the premature discharge of patients, or delays in being admitted to psychiatric facilities had led to people taking their own lives.

PNA general secretary, Des Kavanagh, said a comprehensive reporting system would provide clarity on the statistics in relation to their concerns.

At its annual conference, Mr Kavanagh said many nurses in several parts of the country had told him that the number of suicides occurring in or related to their services far exceeded what it would have been in the past.

In one area spanning Carlow, Kilkenny and South Tipperary, the nurses had identified 14 cases in less than 18 months.

However, last week on RTÉ radio, Minister for State with responsibility for mental health, Kathleen Lynch, said the standard in that area was particularly good.

“I don’t accept that people are prematurely discharged. That is a clinical decision and not one that I have any expertise in, nor, indeed, does Des.”

Ms Lynch said “hard and firm” evidence that such suicides occurred would be investigated “We can’t investigate every public utterance,” she added.

Mr Kavanagh, speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, said he had hard and firm evidence, as did the minister.

He said consultant psychiatrists in north Dublin wrote to the minister last May and a number of times since then to the HSE about having to discharge patients “precipitously” because of a lack of acute beds.

Senior nurses had also claimed that the discharges were only occurring when there was a shortage of beds.

Chair of the Mental Health Commission, John Saunders, said it could not be assumed there was a relationship between early discharge or late admittance and how people had died.

“Suicide, whenever and wherever it happens, is a very complex process.

Mr Saunders said suicides notified to the commission did not indicate there was a trend suggesting that early discharge or delayed admission was a critical factor in those deaths.

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