Young man's suicide highlights shortcomings in treatment of mental illness

Shortcomings in the treatment of mental illness

By William Smith

How sad it is that we can see and read of the tragic consequences of untreated, mistreated and misdiagnosed mental health on a daily basis.  While many sufferers do receive appropriate help and treatment, too many appear to slip through the net.

Even when treatment is put in place it can be inadequate or inappropriate.  Protracted waiting times for treatment are common.  All too often the consequence of poor mental is imprisonment instead of treatment.

One account of such neglect highlights the sometimes inadequate understanding required by health professionals when dealing with mental ill-health.  Here is the sad account of a young man who was failed, not just once but on 26 occasions.

Steven Daly was just 30 when he hanged himself.  He was the father of five young children and had battled with mental illness and substance abuse.  His story was told in the and although this is an account of neglect in another country it typifies what can and does happen around the world. 

According to, the coroner, Kim Parkinson, said that the circumstances of Mr. Daly’s suicide were ‘very sad’, especially as he had made several unsuccessful attempts to have treatment for his ‘dual diagnosis’ problems of an antisocial personality disorder and substance abuse. 

Mr. Daly had had problems with mental illness and substance abuse since his mid-teens after the sudden death of his father.

The inquest was presented with documentary evidence from Mr. Daly’s family that showed he had been assessed or sought treatment from 26 different mental health facilities and drug and alcohol programmes in the eight months prior to his death.

Sadly Mr. Daly kept being rejected because his diagnosis of personality disorder was not recognised nor funded by the state’s mental health services.  Evidence showed that he had repeatedly been assessed by various public mental health facilities as not being suicidal, despite several earlier suicide attempts.

A consultant psychiatrist at South Eastern Mental Health Services, Brendan Murphy, told the inquest ‘What we find recurrently is that access to mental health services is not permitted until you reach such a level of morbidity that it’s too late really to do anything substantial.’

The coroner found Mr. Daly took his own life.  She also found that his inability to commit to available treatment options contributed to his death.

Mr Daly's sister, Lisa Gaskett, told The Age of her family's frustration at the apparent inability and unwillingness of the state's mental health system to provide long-term treatment to her brother.

''It was not just Steve that they let down. They let down his partner, his five children and they let us down,'' she said.

Whilst cases of this nature are rare, and whilst mental health disorders are usually treated appropriately, we cannot turn a blind eye to cases where this is not the case.   

Your rating: None Average: 7 (1 vote)