‘I need your help’: Young woman’s harrowing letter to Leo Varadkar

Eimear (not her real name) first began battling with depression and mental health issues three years ago. Since then she says she has been let down on numerous occasions by the HSE and even now cannot get the help she desperately needs.

This is her open letter to the Minister For Health Leo Varadkar, as shared with us today.

Dear Leo,

After struggling for so many years, I felt I needed to share my story with you. I need your help.

My journey began when I was just a sixteen years old, I remember it like it was yesterday. It started in the New Year, when I woke up one day crying. 

I felt so overwhelmed and was honestly consumed with sadness. I cried for weeks and weeks, and practically visited the doctors every day. This is where I was first diagnosed with depression – a word I'd never heard of and genuinely knew nothing about.

I started on sleeping tablets first of all and even then I couldn't sleep. 

"I tried to overdose"

I remember the hopelessness I felt and how alone I actually was because I didn't know anyone going through the same thing.

So I tried to overdose, taking more sleeping tablets than I should have. Of course my mum panicked and brought me straight to the doctor, where it was suggested I go to St John Of God Hospital because I wasn't safe at home.

So that's where we went, I had a referral and I needed urgent help. I spoke with a doctor there who told me that they couldn't take me in because I was underage. This is completely untrue because I've just learnt recently that they have an Adolescents Department. Thus, this was the first time the HSE failed my family.

"I would wake them up with computer wires around my neck"

My house is quiet – I live with my mum and my older sister – so my illness took a massive toll on them both. I would wake them up threatening to take my own life, with belts or computer wires around my neck or even holding a knife.

I was finally referred to the Lucena Clinic [a child and adolescent service run by Saint John Of God Ministeries] in which I received tremendous help through counselling. It was there I began on my journey to recovery.

However, when I turned 18, everything changed, as I was now considered an 'adult', I was referred to Cluain Mhuire, another service for those aged over 18.

I wasn't ready to leave Lucena. It was my safe haven, a place I could rely on always, and a place where I was treated like a member of the family. But it got to a stage where I had to go, other teenagers needed help and I had to transition. 

"I was struggling, begging for help and no one was hearing me"

I am now almost twenty years old and have finally been seen by Cluain Mhuire. 

My depression and anxiety are now back with a vengeance and it was only after an attempted overdose that Cluain Mhuire got in contact.

It took them four days to call me and even then I was told that they would try to 'squeeze' me in. I was struggling, begging for help and no one was hearing me.

I had to wait one week after my attempted suicide to see the Crisis Liaison Officer who was supposed to help me. A one week wait, because she was on holidays.

There must have been someone else that could have helped me, surely? Anybody. All I wanted was help.

"I needed a plan that would allow me to not want to end my life"

After numerous phone calls, I finally got an appointment where she interviewed me profusely for two hours and we tried to arrange a plan. That's what I needed, I needed a plan, a plan that would allow me to get better, to not want to end my life. 

We discussed numerous groups that I could get involved in – something that I myself was hesitant about because I find it so difficult to open up.

The hardest part is that unlike Lucena, Cluain Mhuire don't offer individual counselling, only group help, which is something that I have to get used to.

During the appointment, the CLO mentioned a day hospital, which I initially said no to because I didn't want to fall behind in college.

"I would do anything to get better"

Before I left, she spoke to my mum and once again mentioned the day hospital. I decided to give it a go, I would do anything to get better, and to be myself again.

She said she'd give me a call that Thursday after she had spoken to Lucena and received my records. We must remind ourselves that this is two weeks after my suicide attempt.

She didn't call on Thursday, I had to call her, Leo. She told me I would start with a counselling group on February 17 – which is three-and-a-half weeks away from today. 

"The HSE services are a complete joke"

I was set on going into this day hospital so I could get into a routine, sleep at night and have something to live for. It was her idea, she offered me this help. Now it turns out that I have to wait to see if there is a place for me. 

I asked her, "What if there's not? What am I going to do?"

I was told to simply go back to college and try not to fall behind on my work there.

"Each and every day I struggle to get up"

The HSE services are a complete joke, they have failed me. Not only have I waited two years to transition into the adult facilities but I am still waiting.

My cry for help hasn't worked. Each and every day I struggle to get up, I don't eat, I don't sleep, I'm just here, trying to survive each day.

I'm sharing this with you Leo, in the hope that you can do something. I'm desperate for your help.


The views expressed above are based on Eimear's own personal experience.