Limerick councillor: 'many are failed by mental health provision'

Nick Rabbitts

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Nick Rabbitts

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nick@limerickleader.ie

Limerick councillor: 'many are failed by mental health provision'

Cian Prendiville has called for radical improvements in mental health provision

Limerick city councillor Cian Prendiville has called for radical improvements in mental health provision after revealing he has been fighting depression himself.

In a post on the social media site Facebook, the Solidarity member said he had been taking the anti-depressant drug Lexapro for almost a year.

He described his experience of the debilitating condition as “an all-encompassing tiredness, and lack of motivation” – and admits he would rather have had a physical illness in its early stages.

And in that period, he added, his eyes have been opened to “how poorly set up Ireland is for dealing with mental health”.

Cllr Prendiville feels the cost of receiving treatment may mean many people cannot access vital support.

“I had two GP visits before getting the prescription. That was over €100. Counselling with a psychotherapist was €50 a week, but it can be €70,” he pointed out.

While people on medical cards can avail of a free counselling service, Cllr Prendiville argues that because they are assigned a therapist, it might not be the best fit for them.

“That wouldn’t have suited me, for instance, as I wanted to go back to the counsellor I had seen before in the University of Limerick after a childhood friend died. I got on well with him, and it felt a lot easier than starting afresh with someone new,” he explained.

Another aspect of depression the former general election candidate said struck him is how “overpowering” the condition is – almost like a physical illness.

“There was no getting over it, or pushing through it, though I tried,” he admitted. “For me, it was an all-encompassing tiredness and lack of motivation. It didn’t feel like being sad or upset about something, like sometimes I imagined. It felt more like something was physically wrong.

“For a while, I thought it may be a thyroid problem. In fact, I hoped it was something like that, not depression. I suppose that is telling about the stigma which still exists around mental health.”

Although this “stigma” has been reduced in recent years, Cllr Prendiville believes there is a long way to go – and fears Ireland’s mental health services are “failing” many people.

“Over 10 years ago, the government launched the ‘Vision for Change’ strategy for mental health services, but since then it has largely sat on the shelf with no funding to implement its proposals. We are still short of 2,000 mental health staff, and many services therefore rely on volunteers or low paid trainees.”

Cllr Prendiville says he is fortunate in the sense his experience of depression was not as intense as many people’s.

He has stopped taking Lexapro, something he admits he was “nervous” about doing at first.

“Last year was tough for me, but thankfully, I’m doing a lot better now. Friends, family, my doctor and in particular my therapist have all been excellent. And the meds helped too, giving me a bit of energy to actually talk and think through things,” he concluded.

Elsewhere, former Mr World, Kamal Ibrahim, from Thomondgate has released a short film called ‘If Only’. Its aim is to continue to raise awareness of mental health issues in Ireland, and has received the full support of both Aware and the Samaritans.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this piece, you can contact Aware on 1800 80 48 48, the Samaritans at 116 123 and Pieta House on 1800 247 247.