A WATERFORD woman and mental health advocate who has first-hand experience of what it is like to sleep on the floor and chairs in the Department of Psychiatry (DOP), described it as “degrading”.
Toni Breen, founder of mental health awareness and support group Candles in the Dark, said the crisis at the DOP has been ongoing for years.
Last May, Toni was admitted as a DOP in-patient following the death of her grandmother. “I was on a chair in the exact position as in the photo,” she said.
“It was so uncomfortable sleeping like that as you slip through the middle of the chairs. I was shattered from the lack of sleep. The nurses were all apologising for not having a bed.” Toni spent two nights on chairs before eventually getting a bed.
On another occasion, she slept on the floor on a makeshift mattress made from a duvet with another on top. During that occasion three other patients were also sleeping on the floor. “It’s degrading for people with mental health. It’s also hard on the nurses and psychiatrists as they are doing their best,” she added.
When asked why she thought the issue hadn’t come to public attention sooner, Toni said she was just happy to be admitted to the unit. “When you are in crisis it is better to be sitting on a chair than to be discharged. You are just happy to be there,” she said.
She said the Government needs to focus on developing and improving the DOP service and retaining its existing staff, while additional care assistants could also be drafted in. The lack of services for adolescents also needs to be addressed.
Toni said Waterford is fortunate to have services like Brooke House and Shine Discovery. Ms Breen will continue to advocate for improvements in mental health services and encouraged those who are interested to join Candles in the Dark which she established in 2016.