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Sent home from Mater


By Kieran Hughes

The mother of a North Belfast man who took his own life two years ago after spending eight hours in the Mater Hospital’s accident and emergency unit has said she is “reliving a nightmare” after a close relative was sent home from the same hospital this week only hours after threatening to take his own life.

Kate Ferrin’s 19-year old son Christopher ‘Chricky’ Scott-Ferrin died by suicide in August 2010. Days before the Oldpark teen died he was brought to the Mater Hospital’s casualty unit suffering from suicidal thoughts.

The Rosehead teenager was sent to the hospital by his GP for an emergency psychiatric assessment and spent eight hours in the hospital where he was only seen by a triage nurse and an A&E doctor. Despite the promise they would get the assessment urgently, after more than eight hours without help the traumatised teenager left the hospital and took his own life in an East Belfast park five days later.

This week a close relative of Kate’s faced an all too familiar scenario. The 22-year-old man threatened to take his own life on Monday morning (September 3) but his family were able to talk him around.

He was brought to the Mater Hospital at around 9am where his family told staff he was suicidal. However, he was released at around 1pm after doctors deemed him to be of no danger to himself. The man is now under the round-the-clock care of his family.

The man’s mother was too distressed to speak to but Kate Ferrin, a close relative, said the events of this week are shockingly familiar to the run-up to her son’s death.

She reiterated the impassioned plea she has been making since Chricky’s death – people who are crying out for help need care in a safe and controlled environment.

“They are just not listening, the lessons should have been learnt by now. How many other people is this happening to?” she told the North Belfast News this week.

“My concern is that he is crying out for help but it is not being given by the National Health Service. Somebody has attempted to take their own life but then is told he is not a danger to himself, what does he have to do?”

“We are now just constantly watching him, we are on a keep-safe campaign. He is receiving counselling from PIPS but the Mater are failing people with serious mental health problems.”

Philip McTaggart, founder of suicide awareness charity PIPS Programmes, said the man shouldn’t have been sent home.

“He is going to be safe with his family but they don’t have the skills or expertise to deal with this,” he said.

“The only thing that is going to happen is that he is going to cause more distress to the family unit, and within months another family member could become depressed. The World Health Organisation clearly states that.”

He said more help is needed for young people who are in distress.

“There needs to be a plan put in place to help support that person to come out of the dark place they are in. There needs to be investment in the North of the city.

“There needs to be opportunities for young people, they need some self worth.”

A spokesman for the Belfast Trust said treatment plans for people with suicidal thoughts well be different for each individual.

“Individuals referred to Belfast Trust Mental Health Services with suicidal thoughts will have a clinical assessment carried out by a mental health professional. In urgent cases an assessment can be carried out within four hours,” he said.

“A treatment plan will be formulated based on each person’s particular problems and the outcome of the clinical assessment.

“The reasons people present with suicidal thoughts range from emotional distress to the most severe forms of mental illness, and as such treatment plans vary, and will be different for each individual.”

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