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Cuddihy deaths caused by a lot more than untreated depression

I’m writing in response to your piece published with the dramatic and somewhat threatening headline, ‘Get help before you do something to cause great pain to your family’ (Irish Examiner, 29 October)

I am a psychologist and a psychotherapist so let me be clear from the outset – I applaud all efforts to promote positive mental health and I so wish that mental health services were more widely available, and affordable.

Mental health services in this country are indeed dismal.

But I am disturbed by the tone of this article for several reasons.

Firstly, you are quoting a freshly bereaved woman, a vulnerable woman, who by definition is not thinking straight, she cannot be. And she is not a mental health expert, at least I see no sign of that in the piece.

Her words are alarmist, naturally, because she is alarmed. Traumatised most likely.

Of course it is most desirable and preventative if we seek help when we are in distress, but make no mistake, her brother was more than “feeling low”.

You don’t need a Master’s degree or a PhD in psychology to figure that out.

And so if you are feeling low, it does not automatically follow that you will eventually “do something that will cause such great pain to your family” as this piece just might suggest to some.

This is the kind of language that enables stigmatisation of depression (even of sadness) and it links depression to antisocial behaviour. It facilitates errors of causation. And that’s never helpful.

Violent behaviour is much more complex than that. Indeed I note you also published an article that refers to recent genetic research findings on the MAOA and CDH13 genotypes and a theorised link to violent behaviour in the sample population.

We do need to talk more about depression, and all aspects of mental health. And we need to be careful about the language that we use when we do so.

I have not met Julian Cuddihy and would not dare to offer an opinion on why he did what he did.

But this was more than “feeling down”.

Please weigh up the value of a soundbite against the possible interpretation of it by vulnerable people.

Sally O’Reilly

MACounsPsych, MIAHIP, SIAHIP, MEAP Counselling Psychologist, Psychotherapist & Supervisor

Ladysbridge

Co Cork


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