University Hospital Limerick sends away most patients who self-harm

University Hospital Limerick

UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick (UHL) has the highest rate in the country of sending people who have self-harmed away from the hospital emergency department without admitting them.

71 per cent of patients who either harmed or tried to harm themselves are discharged without receiving in-hospital treatment.

The figures come from the National Suicide Research Federation (NSRF) and a spokeswoman told the Limerick Post that “there may be many reasons for that.”

She said that the records do not distinguish between self-harm and suicidal ideation.

The figures were raised as volunteers renewed their plea to the HSE to provide full training for them so they can operate a safe haven for people who are suicidal and those who work to help them.

Limerick woman Leona O’Callaghan is on the committee behind the voluntary Haven Hub in Henry Street, which was set up in response to the lack of out-of-hours support for people in distress.

But to run the hub properly, volunteers need specialist training from the ‘ASIST’ programme which is provided by the HSE. There is a four-month waiting list and the trainers can only take two volunteers from any one organisation at a time.

“There are many wonderful organisations offering help to suicidal people and people with mental health difficulties but at night there is no physical place for people to go other than to the emergency department at UHL,” she told the Limerick Post.

“The figures show that 71 per cent of them are discharged, which is the highest figure of any hospital in the country. Another 13 per cent leave before they can be assessed. There is huge need for someplace for people to go and talk with someone other than the emergency department in a busy hospital.”

“Right now, the only place the suicide patrol volunteers can talk to someone who is contemplating suicide is outside in the cold by the river.

“The Hub would provide a place of safety, away from that. Managed by a committee made up of the many mental health and support organisations in the city, it has already received 55 applications from people volunteering to staff the centre.

“But to help people in danger, a volunteer must be trained. We would like to see people do just two or three shifts a month but we only have ten people qualified in ASIST.”

“I did the ASIST course and I did it in a group. It’s unbelievable that the HSE, who are the only people delivering the course, wouldn’t just take our volunteers as a group and train them. We’re not looking for money,  just for access to training.”

The Hub is currently operating on Fridays and Saturdays from 8pm.

“The Social Services centre here have been very good to us, making room and there’s plenty of willing volunteers. Now we need to give them the skills.”

In a statement to the Limerick Post, the HSE said: “The HSE Office for Suicide prevention have two  ASIST training workshops  planned between now and Christmas where the Haven Hub have been offered a number of places.

“We are awaiting further applicants from the Haven Hub to offer them spaces in upcoming workshops.

“We are meeting the Haven Hub later this week to further discuss their training needs. As with similar organisations , we do prioritise a number of places on our ASIST training workshops.”

“The ASIST training model provides an opportunity for learning and networking with other agencies. Our main priority when providing ASIST is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those undertaking the training .

“We  are exploring the possibility of adding a further ASIST training  workshop to the training schedule in the near future,” the statement concluded.