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Mental heath services the ‘poor relation of the medical service’ - Coroner

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CONSULTANT PATHOLOGIST Dr Fadel Bennani.

Pat O’Connor calls for more funding and staffing for mental health and psychiatric services

Anton McNulty

The mental health and psychiatric services are treated like the ‘poor relation of the medical service’, according to the Coroner for Mayo, who called for extra staffing and funding to be made available.
Mr Pat O’Connor called on the authorities and politicians to give mental health services the full resources of the State to help people affected by the illness.
Mr O’Connor was speaking following the death of 39-year-old Cyril Gallagher who was under the care of the Mayo Mental Health Services and died after overdosing on his medication.
“It is a well-known fact that illness such as a psychiatric illness is very common and unfortunately it sometimes tends to be treated like the poor relation of the medical service. Perhaps additional resources are required and additional funding is required and perhaps now is the time that might be dealt with,” Mr O’Connor said at yesterday’s (Monday) inquest in Castlebar.
He added: “I know the Mayo Mental Health Association and various psychiatric units in Castlebar do their very best … but it is time that the identity of the serious cause of psychiatric and mental illness and the treatment of it are identified properly and the full resources of the state are applied to help people like Cyril and others.
“The authorities and those either going into or out of power - it is not of me in a political sense to make any pronouncements of what is going on - but they seriously need to consider the staffing and the funding in particular of the mental health and psychiatric units. It is absolutely essential because it has too long been the forgotten as part of the services.”
The inquest into Mr Gallagher’s death heard that he was found dead on December 3, 2018 at his apartment at 26a Cois Abhainn, Castlebar, which is accommodation provided by Mayo Mental Health to their patients.
Pauline Gallagher, mother of the deceased, who resides in Westport, said she usually spoke to her son by phone twice a day and last spoke to him at 4.10pm on December 2. She said he seemed fine but she became concerned the following day she when he did not call her and he didn’t answer his phone.
Contacted gardaí
She contacted the gardaí in Castlebar and Garda Martin Friel said he gained entry to the building after receiving a key from Niall Dunne, Manager of Mayo Mental Health. He found the body of Mr Gallagher lying face down on the bedroom floor at 5.15pm. There was evidence of vomit in the bed and kitchen sink but no foul play.
Dr Fadel Bennani, Consultant Pathologist who performed the post mortem explained that bloods taken from Mr Gallagher revealed high levels of the anti-psychotic drug amisulpride.  He said the levels were four times higher than the normal therapeutic levels which he described as a ‘little high’. He added that the drug is known to cause cardiac arrhythmia and can be fatal.
Dr Bennani said the cause of death was due to sudden cardiac arrhythmia due to amisulpride overdose and told Mr Gallagher’s family that death would have been quick and sudden.
Mr Dunne said that everyone in Mayo Mental Health was very fond of Mr Gallagher and described him as ‘our eyes and ears in Cois Abhainn’. Ms Gallagher said her son was living in Castlebar for over a year and said Mayo Mental Health had been very good to him.
Mr O’Connor recorded a verdict of death by misadventure saying that perhaps Mr Gallagher did not intend to do what he did when taking his medication. He acknowledged that Mayo Mental Health did their best for him and there was no culpability on anyone for his death.
He extended his sympathy to Mr Gallagher’s mother and the rest of his family and said he hoped some good will come from his passing and the authorities will do more for the mental health services.