Fr Paddy Byrne.
PORTLAOISE parish priest, Fr Paddy Byrne’s debut book ’All Will be Well’, has hit the shelves and brings with it a message of hope to many people with mental health problems.
The title of the book encapsulates Fr Byrne’s personal mantra of hope and it has a chapter dedicated to suicide and mental health.
Fr Byrne who is a mental health advocate and tweeter, said Christmas is a time of year when we are expected to be at our best, but so many people feel at their worst.
“Christmas time can often be a time when people over-indulge, and we must be conscious of the ‘12 Pubs’ and Christmas Day Parties occurring in third level institutions, and how they can often lead to mental health issues coming into play.
“It is always wonderful when people talk about how they feel however, it is the ones who don’t talk that we need to be concerned about,” Fr Byrne added.
He believes that we need to step away the “normalisation” of suicide that has been somewhat accepted as the solution to the simplest of problems by young people in recent years.
Fr Byrne believes essential State mental health services in Ireland, including Portlaoise, are not adequate to provide suitable care needed by so many patients.
“Any form of closure of A&E services in Portlaoise would have a severe impact on the current situation of mental health in Portlaoise,” he added.
“In Portlaoise, the number of those taking their own lives is still growing every year, and the question we must ask, is not just around the mental health services provided but the reasons behind the mental health epidemic that’s happening,” Fr Byrne said.
He thinks that one of the steps that needs to be taken to improve services when a patient is admitted is to provide a one-on- one conversation between doctor and patient, as often the only communication a young person is having is through social media.
Nowhere has this “normalisation” of suicide been felt more than in St Mary’s Christian Brothers School (CBS) in Portlaoise, where several students have died by suicide in recent years.
And Fr Byrne has said the funeral masses for some of these students.
St Mary’s CBS Maura Murphy said there has been an increase of mental health issues amongst young people due to social media and the lack of personal space and the fear of being left out.
Ms Murphy said the idea of teenagers bringing their smartphones to bed with them means they have a constant communication online and therefore are left with no space to heal.
She added that the little knowledge parents have of what their children are searching online has a lot to do with how we protect vulnerable young people.