People from Donegal Prevented from Accessing Vital Mental Health Services

Pearse Doherty

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Deputy Pearse Doherty has labelled as ‘unacceptable and wrong’ current HSE operational practices which prevent adults in Donegal from accessing the important psychology service, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).

The therapy is a multi-disciplinary programme developed to provide key psychological supports to people who engage in self-harm and display suicidal behaviour, while also offering assistance to their families. However, following correspondence received by Deputy Doherty from the HSE, it’s been revealed that the service is not available to adult patients in Donegal due to a shortage of psychologists.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Last month I wrote to the HSE concerning the provision of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, or DBT as it is commonly known, in Donegal as I had become concerned over reports I had received from patients in the county that they and their families were unable to receive the treatment.

“Following correspondence which I’ve since received from the HSE in relation to mental health services in Donegal, management locally has confirmed that adults in this county are unable to receive DBT psychology services which are available in other parts of this state.

“This clarification is yet another example of just how inadequate mental health services are in this county and the discrimination which some of the most vulnerable people in the Northwest experience in terms of mental health service provision is nothing short of disgraceful.

“Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a psychology led multi-disciplinary programme which usually lasts over a 16 week period and is delivered by the Child and Family Mental Health Service.

“The programme is seen as a key part of treatment for people living with these conditions, and while this therapy is available for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age who practice self-harm, who suffer from emotional dysregulation or who have suicidal ideation or thoughts, adults in Donegal are prevented from accessing it.

“The service also provides additional supports to the families of those who are undergoing the therapy which consists of weekly sessions and out-of-hours phone coaching.

“Despite the evidence to suggest the benefit which this cognitive behavioural treatment may yield for patients and their loved ones, there is currently no mechanism in place which allows for adult service users in Donegal to be referred on to receive DBT treatment outside the county.

“While not ideal, as an interim measure it is now crucial that a service level agreement be drawn up immediately to allow for patients in Donegal to avail of DBT treatment in other areas until such time as the recruitment of additional psychologists takes place to enable services to operate here locally.

“Depriving vulnerable people of vital services is simply unacceptable and totally wrong, and I intend to raise this gap in our mental health services with the Minister and with his successor whoever he or she may be in the weeks ahead.”