Belfast Telegraph

Support for the family of suicidal Belfast man after arrest for violent outburst in hospital A&E

Donal Meehan
Donal Meehan

By Stephanie Bell

Thousands of people have rallied round the family of a suicidal Belfast man who lost control in a Belfast hospital yesterday after being refused admission.

Donal Meehan (34) from north Belfast, who has a history of addiction and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, spent last night in police custody after a violent outburst in the Ulster Hospital.

He had already been turned away from the Mater Hospital in Belfast, where his worried sister Grainne Kelly had pleaded with the mental health team to admit her brother, who she says has tried three times this week to take his own life.

The brother and sister left the Mater Hospital and travelled to the Ulster Hospital, where they sat in A&E from 2am yesterday until 11am, when Mr Meehan was assessed.

On being told that he could not be admitted to the hospital he started to throw furniture about and barricaded himself into a room.

Terrified hospital staff had no choice but to call the police.

A spokesperson for the Ulster Hospital said last night: "The South Eastern HSC Trust cannot comment on individual cases but can confirm an individual was arrested for criminal damage within the Ulster Hospital emergency department this afternoon. Following this incident, the department returned to normal working."

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Police also confirmed they had a man in custody. A PSNI spokesperson said: "Police are investigating a report of an incident in the Dundonald area today, Wednesday 6 November, have arrested a man aged in his 30s. He is currently in police custody. There are no further details at this stage."

In a statement on behalf of the Mater Hospital, the Belfast Trust said it did strive to treat every patient with compassion and sensitivity during what could be a complex assessment process.

Mr Meehan's distraught sister, a mum-of-five who runs her own business in the city, said she was stunned by over 2,000 messages from people in response to her social media post.

The post on Facebook was shared by over 8,000 people yesterday and attracted more than 3,000 comments.

Mrs Kelly said: "I'm in shock at the sheer number of messages I have received from people who said they were in the same boat and had been turned away from hospital with a leaflet.

"My brother has battled PTSD and addiction but had been clean for the past 14 weeks although during that time his mental health has really deteriorated. Our family have been so worried about him and all I was doing was trying to get him some help."

Mrs Meehan recalled how her brother had been arrested by police earlier in the week when he self-harmed at his mother's house.

He was taken to the Mater Hospital where he was treated for cuts on his arms and head and released into police custody.

He spent Monday night in custody and was released on Tuesday when his sister took him to the Mater Hospital again, hoping that he could be admitted.

She said: "On Tuesday I went to see him after work and I was so concerned about his mental state I brought him to the out of hours doctor who arranged for me to take him to the mental health crisis team in the Mater. They assessed him and said he couldn't be admitted because he was not suffering from a mental illness.

"I was so shocked. He was crying and I pleaded with them to admit my brother. His neck was black and behind his ears was black from trying to take his life on Sunday and he was bandaged up and stitched from the harm he did to himself on Monday, and still they wouldn't accept that he was mentally ill and needed to be admitted."

Mrs Curry then took her brother to the A&E department of the Mater to try and get him assessed by a different team and when that failed at 1.30am yesterday they travelled to the Ulster Hospital.

Last night with her brother in custody Mrs Kelly said she had no idea where her family would turn now. She said: "I just don't know what to do. I have no doubt if he doesn't get the help he needs he will die. I really don't know where else to turn."

In a statement the Belfast Trust said: "We cannot comment on individual patients. In all cases when a mental health assessment is carried out a treatment and safety plan is put in place which may include referral to an appropriate service.

"Belfast Trust sympathises with members of the public who come to hospital for mental health assessment, as they can feel extremely anxious.

"We strive to ensure every patient is treated with compassion and sensitivity throughout a complex assessment process, which takes time to allow staff to fully understand each patient's needs in detail so an appropriate treatment plan can commence."

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair please call Lifeline 24/7 free-phone crisis helpline on 0808 808 8000

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