Call for better mental health services made at vigil to Harry Taaffe in Dundalk
A vigil in memory of the late Harry Taaffe took place in the Market Square in Dundalk on Sunday afternoon.
Those in attendance called for better mental health services to prevent more lives being lost to suicide.
The death of the Dundalk FC groundsman and videographer shocked the town in July.
It was organised by Harry’s brother Paul with speakers including Dundalk FC general manager Martin Connolly, local TD Ruairí Ó Murchú and Martina Duffy, whose brother Brendan, who lived next door to Harry in O’Hanlon Park, also died by suicide.
Speaking at the event, Sinn Féin deputy Ó Murchú highlighted the underfunding in mental health services and said enough was enough.
He said: “I was going to come up here and speak about how we have an acute lack of psychiatric beds in this State and how we have underfunding in mental health services, whether that is hospitalisation or community-based services.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that 12% of a State’s health budget should be spent on mental health. In this State, it is less than 7%.
“We are here to remember those who have died by suicide across Co. Louth. This has had a huge impact on us and on our community. It’s not good enough.
“Harry Taaffe did what he was meant to do. He realised he didn’t feel well and his doctor signed off that he needed psychiatric services. He presented himself at Crosslanes where he was assessed but he was told that he wasn’t going to be hospitalised.
“Hospitalisation has its own difficulties. But he was given medication so there was some element of help needed for him. But the bit that I can’t stand over is that Harry was told that it would be somewhere between four and six weeks before the community care team would be able to deal with him.
“We say that you should ask for help so you get help, so that people realise that someone has their back.
“There is great work being done in communities by NGOs such as Pieta House, The Samaritans and SOSAD, among others. We need a State service that will give us what is necessary.
“What happened here is not good enough. The asks are straightforward: we need extra funding, we need 24/7 emergency mental health care.
“And what we need in particular in this county is an audit of services here.
“We need to get the services that Harry and the others deserved. It’s not good enough. This is only the beginning.”