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Teen mental health: 'The first time I was admitted, albeit voluntarily, I was absolutely terrified'

Our teen suicide rate is the 4th highest in the EU but I’m not surprised, writes Natalie Marr.

Natalie Marr Marketing manager and mental health activist

ON MONDAY MORNING, you would have woken up to – amongst other news stories – the report that our teen suicide rate is the 4th highest in the EU. Are you shocked? I’m not.

Previous news reports have been indicative of the fact that there are serious shortcomings in the health service when it comes to properly minding the mental health of our youngsters.

There is of course the infuriating report that half of the beds in a custom-built facility are left empty due to staff shortages. How about the one where a suicidal teenager was turned away from hospital. Then there’s the lack of help for a teen with suicidal ideation.

Of course, you will not be surprised to hear that this isn’t a recent trend. Back in 2014, a case was reported by the Child Care Law Reporting Project about an Irish youngster being held in a facility in the UK because there was nowhere for them to be properly looked after here.

The news item that has been grating on me the most in recent days is that of the teenager who was admitted and kept in an adult psychiatric facility. For anyone who has been in a psychiatric facility, you will know some of the common feelings experienced. For those who don’t, let me enlighten you.

I was absolutely terrified 

The first time I was admitted, albeit voluntarily, I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what to expect.

Although a product of my unwellness at the time, the anxiety and fear I felt about staying in such a place was very real to me. I was very, very anxious and worried when I found out that I would be sharing a room, I was worried that I would be attacked in my sleep.

That night, I didn’t sleep a wink but more so because my roommate was a very loud snorer rather than anything else.

I very quickly realised that everyone in there with me – those whom I had been so afraid of at the start – were just regular people, like me. People who, at that point in time, needed some additional help. Just like me.

Sharing each other’s space 

But it is an intimidating environment to be in, for anyone. Landed in with a bunch of people you don’t know, sharing each other’s space, sometimes each other’s stories.

Coupled with the paranoia that some people can experience, you’re worried that people don’t have the best intentions. You’re also so alone because, apart from in visiting hours, you won’t see a familiar face.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a youngster being in this environment, and imagine how you would feel. I can’t even begin to think how much more frightened I would have been.

I only have personal experience of private psychiatric facilities, so I can’t speak for public ones. But what I will say is that, when you are on your knees - so much so that you need to be in such a facility – it is a huge upheaval both mentally and emotionally. This can have a lasting effect, and I can only imagine the impact it could have on a youngster.

To really be of benefit to our children and youngsters when they are at some of their lowest moments, we need to ensure that we look after them in the best way possible. Can this really be considered the best way possible?

Our health service is unravelling at the seams 

I know some may argue that at least they are safe when in such a facility, which may very well be true, but it is not an appropriate environment for them to be in and, I would argue, not of much help in the long-term for their mental wellbeing.

Our health service is unravelling at the seams, and the brave and hardworking staff on the ground are doing the best that they can. But with stories such as these coming out, I can’t help but think that we’re going to continue appearing high in suicide rates among under-18s in Europe, as well as suicide rates in general.

We need to bring about change, it’s just so hard to figure out how. I try to do my part by writing and shedding light on such issues, and other personal endeavours. As well as these, through my position in work I have arranged a partnership between Viking Splash Tours and Pieta House to work on ongoing small projects, but I feel there should be more that we can do to fix this situation.

Natalie Marr is from Dublin, and works in Viking Splash Tours, masquerading as Sales and Marketing Manager. She contributes to the mental health page Hold on the pain ends on Facebook @holdonthepainends.

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About the author:

Natalie Marr  / Marketing manager and mental health activist

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