By Gordon Deegan
A father has told a court that his 10-year old son told him that he has been having suicidal thoughts.
At the family law court in Ennis, the father said that he asked his son directly if he was thinking about suicide after hearing advice about asking children such questions directly during an item on the topic on the Late Late Show last month.
The father told the court: “In October, I was out walking with him and he said ‘Dad I would love a new life. I wish I could start a new life’."
The Co Clare man said: “I picked up on it that this was about suicide but I was afraid to ask him the question. I heard on the Late Late one night, ’you ask your child the question directly’ and three weeks ago I went out to him and asked him directly and he said ‘Yes. Dad, I was having thoughts’
The man said that he asked his son "‘Do you know what it means - the word?’ and he said ‘yes’."
The man said: “My son told me what it meant and I asked him ‘have you thought about how you are going to do it? and he told me that he had.”
The boy’s parents are estranged and his mother told the court that their son “is tired of being pulled and dragged and Daddy keeps nagging him ‘why don’t you come and live with me during the week and then Mommy at weekends’. He is just tired of this”.
She said: “He is happy to go to his father but he doesn’t want to taken from his mother either and his father is trying to do that all the time.”
Judge Patrick Durcan said that “both parents have raised the issue of suicide having both discussed that issue with the child and therefore the court must adopt a very cautious approach”.
Judge Durcan directed that the HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) carry out a risk assessment on the boy while he is also to attend his GP and see a psychologist.
Judge Durcan said: “I would hope that whatever has to be done by these experts can be done with as little intervention as possible with the child.”
Addressing the boy’s parents in court, Judge Durcan said: “This is a little boy who does need help, but it may very well be that the cause of the problems lie with the pair of you. I can understand that and I am not condemning you or saying there is anything wrong.”
He added: “When a relationship breaks down, it is a terrible thing because to survive it, very frequently, people must bring forth their most negative aspects and the child is then caught in this unsavoury sandwich.”
He said: “That is why it is very important that you step back and bite your tongue and you take a deep breath.”
Judge Durcan said later: “My feeling here, and I may be wrong, is that this little boy is normal as any little boy and that this little’s boy’s mammy and daddy have got to be seen by whoever."
Judge Durcan said: “My feeling is that a lot of damage can be done to little boys by over-examination by psychologists and GPs and all these other people.”
After continuing attempted interruptions from the boy’s father in court, Judge Durcan requested him to “just keep quiet for the moment”.
Judge Durcan said: “I have observed you two days in court and you seem to be hyper-active because you interrupt non-stop and you want your voice heard non-stop.”
The judge also directed that the boy’s school principal provide a report to court and that the boy’s parents attend the Court Service Mediation Service to determine appropriate methods of communication between each other and with the child
Judge Durcan adjourned the case to March of this year