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'I stopped eating for days at a time, having no appetite or will to carry on and live'

“There are plenty of people in the same situation as me. Many are even worse off. Don’t we deserve the chance to get better?”

Eoghan Gardiner Journalism student

I FIRST REALISED that I had ran into serious issues with my mental health about two or three years ago, when I was 14 or 15.

I had dyspraxia, I was missing a day or two of school every week, I’d started eating far less food than I’d ought to, my sleeping pattern was out of order and I was gradually becoming more and more anxious – though I doubt I could have put that word on it at the time.

Doctors’ visits

A handful of doctors’ visits later, the general assessment was that my dyspraxia had led to me falling behind in school, which made me dread going in, miss days, and become increasingly anxious because of this. I was prescribed Ritalin by a specialist who had met me once, to help my concentration and organisational skills.

Good in theory. But unfortunately the Ritalin worsened my anxiety. This is a known side effect, but not one that I could ever have truly prepared myself for.

I stopped eating for days at a time, having no appetite or will to carry on and live. I was absolutely fed up of being punished and scolded everyday, and in my mind, I began to accept blame for my anxiety, for not sleeping, for missing school, and all the challenges having dyspraxia brings.

It was during this spell that I first attempted to take my own life. I must have been fifteen.

Root of my problems

I was taken off the problematic medication and offered counselling but, still too ashamed and ignorant of my own needs, I refused this, and things continued downhill. I tried going back to school on and off, but with my mental health still deteriorating, in the end I missed my Junior Cert completely.

Because I hadn’t tackled the root of my problems, my mental health, inevitably anxiety and lack of sleep would creep in and I’d find myself yet again unable to get up in the morning.

I tried starting transition year in school, when that didn’t work out I tried to attend Youth Reach education programmes, and when that didn’t work I tried working. But I kept running into the same wall. My poor mental health followed me everywhere and made such simple things impossible for me.

Finding the right services at the right time

It was only after further attempts on my life, including spending quite a few nights in A&E rooms and realising that there was no long-term solution to be found there, that I found myself ready to try and attend CAMHS in Cherry Orchard Hospital, for counselling and medical appointments.

I can say without a doubt that the services there have turned things around massively for me. I’ve seen an improvement in my mental health. I’m returning to myself, and I’ve begun to get my life back on track. I’m hoping to start a course in journalism in September that could lead on to a Post-Leaving Certificate.

It may not sound like much, but it is a far cry from having no qualifications, no hope and, as far I was concerned, no life to live or look forward to not so long ago. One of the key parts of being able to take advantage of these services was that they were accessible, and there when I needed them.

If I’d been told I had to join a two-year waiting list – a very real possibility given the state of our health services – I’m not sure what I would have done.

Services in jeopardy

So you can imagine how shocked I was to read that the Linn Dara ward in Cherry Orchard Hospital, where I attend CAMHS, was shutting down its mental health day services. Fortunately I won’t be affected personally, but many young people like me will.

There are plenty of people in the same situation as me. Many are even worse off. Don’t we deserve the chance to get better? What if one could not afford to travel elsewhere to avail of these services once the day service is stopped? Are we supposed to just accept that we’re out of luck?

The irony is, that the Government makes these brutal cutbacks while launching campaign after campaign for mental health awareness. There’s no point raising awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health if we are not willing to invest in the services people need once they are aware of their problems.

Cutting services

There is an epidemic of suicide attempts by young people in Dublin, and for the HSE to close down facilities when more are evidently needed is absolutely scandalous. And the fact is that those who are wealthy can pay for private healthcare and private counselling, so these sorts of cuts disproportionately impact on working class young people.

Make no mistake, this is not a faultless crime nor a victimless one. At fault is the Fine Gael government and the Minister for Health Simon Harris, while the victims are working class communities and their young people.

This is austerity, and seems nothing like the recovery that Fine Gael spoke about during the last election. They’ll boast and exaggerate their achievements come the next election, but working class young people – maybe voting for the first time – are already experiencing how Fine Gael treat us, and won’t forget the harm they’ve done any time soon.

Eoghan Gardiner is a 17 year old journalism student, writer, and member of The Workers’ Party. He writes with @lookleftMag.

If you need to talk, please contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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About the author:

Eoghan Gardiner  / Journalism student

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