A Tipperary mother - whose son was locked up in jail for over four months because no room in a secure mental health unit could be found for him - has appealed for such a facility to cover the Midlands area.
The man, who is aged 24, had charges of criminal damage and breach of a safety order struck out at Nenagh Court this month after Judge Elizabeth MacGrath heard that two psychiatrists had said that the man was not fit to plead or give proper instructions.
The man, who appeared via video link last week at Nenagh District Court on Friday, September 10, was on remand in custody under 23-hour lock-up within the prison. He was given consent to bail by the Circuit Court sitting in Wexford in relation to more serious charges on condition that he be brought to a treatment centre when a bed became available, and, in the event of him being released, that the gardaí be notified.
However, at the time, no such facility could be found to accommodate him.
The man has since been released into care at Ennis Hospital, which caters for all mental health patients in Tipperary. However, it is not a secure unit.
His mother this week told the Tipperary Star that it was difficult for her to get to Ennis to see her son as the round trip was three hours.
“If something is to come out of this, if this were to be his legacy, it would be that we would have a secure unit in the Midlands,” she said.
She also said that such a unit could work in conjunction with agencies that deal with severe mental disorders, such as Headway.
“We still want our son to have a relationship. He is my son and he has brothers and sisters who love him. He deserves to have his family around him,” she said.
The mother described it as “heartbreaking” to see her son’s condition.
“Ennis have told us that he is the worst they have ever seen him,” she said. “I would say he is only there because they were obligated to take him,” said the mother.
Outlining her son’s condition, she said that he had been involved in a car accident when he was 16 years old and that it had resulted in a brain bleed.
However, it was only 18 months later that he was diagnosed with acquired brain injury following stints in rehabilitation.
Her son had also sustained a frontal lobe injury which affected his personality, leading to organised psychosis and schizophrenia.
She said that she had told them there was “something wrong” and now her son was getting worse.
She acknowledged that there had been incidents with medical and prison staff.
“It is terrible to be afraid of your own,” she said. “There have been assaults and I am trying to say that is what we are living with. He was so intelligent and good at school. It is heartbreaking. He often says he just wants to be like everyone else.”
The mother said that her son’s condition had deteriorated when his grandmother died last year as he had been very close to her and had become suicidal.
“I don’t think he knew how to handle it,” she said.
While on remand in prison since last April, her son had received some medication to stabilise his condition, but she was fearful that he had not received all the correct medication as the staff had probably never had to deal with someone with such a complicated condition.
“He was also locked up for 23 hours a day, which would drive anyone mad,” she said.
The woman said that what her son needed was full time sheltered accommodation and full time 24-hour care as he can forget to take his medication himself.
“I would love to see that put in place for him. We shouldn’t be taking his word as an adult,” she said.
The last time her son was as bad as he is now, she said, it had taken him months to come to back to some sense of normality.
The woman said that the system was letting her son down and that this had been going on since he was about 18 years old when he fell between the cracks as he turned from being an adolescent to an adult.
“Everything that was put in place just seemed to fall by the wayside,” she said.
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