Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Suicide raises tough questions for psychiatry

YOUR columns last week featured another sad story of suicide – that of a young midwife, Aoife Ni Uallachain (News, September 3-6).

In August, in Newcastle, where a young man had taken his own life, a public meeting was held and addressed by a retired psychiatrist.

His lecture was excellently comprehensive and helpful. However, some serious questions were raised by a very concerned audience.

Why did psychiatry seem to be a Cinderella field in medicine? Did psychiatry receive the funding necessary for its development? Was the quality of psychiatric practitioners as good as it might be?

Some people felt that they had been let down by those treating members of their families for mental conditions. Your columns on the inquest into Aoife's death reflect certain concerns in the first report, but not in the second. Yet, here is a patient in a safe place who can take her own life.

Your second report also focuses on her ailments, rather than the care and treatment afforded.

Is it not strange, too, that the coroner focused on form-filling, rather than the care of a 33-year-old in mental turmoil?

Journalists and coroners may – and must – voice different positions and they may – and must – question well-established sacred cows in every field.

If our shepherds fail us, what hope is there for the sheep?

R D MACPHERSON

Dundrum, Co Down

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