herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

We lost our son to cancer, then my grieving wife took her life. We were let down by the HSE

IT'S the haunting story which will despair readers.

How a mum who lost her son to cancer and was then let down by the system, to the extent she took her own life.

Today her husband Seamus Rooney bravely describes losing his teenage son and wife in the space of six months -- but insists Anne (47) could have been saved.

He tells how doctors said her mental illness "was due to grief and she wasn't actually suicidal".

Today, Mr Rooney (50) has revealed his ongoing pain at how he had tried to get Anne into full time care but was"failed by the system".

"Anne tried to take her own life on several occasions," he told the Herald.

"My [eldest son] David and I told the doctors that it was too dangerous for her to be at home because we weren't there to look after her all the time, but they felt that if she was hospitalised for a long period of time, she would become institutionalised.



Train

"And there weren't enough beds. I was told that there were 3,000 people who needed psychiatric help [in our area] but only 22 public beds."

While he feels that his son's passing could not have been prevented, Seamus believes public healthcare let down his wife when she needed it most.

Anne Rooney had been battling severe depression for two years before she took her own life by jumping in front of a train last December.

Her depression first became apparent three years ago after she developed neuralgia -- nerve facial pain.

"Anne had lost her father when she was 18 years old and her sister died by suicide in 2005. She never really grieved them and then she lost Colm," said Seamus.

Colm was 19 years old when he died of Erwing Sarcoma, a rare cancer which started in his pelvis in 2009 but had spread to his lungs by March 2010. He died 14 months later.

"When Anne lost her son, she felt guilty that she hadn't been there for him when he was ill, and it became very difficult for her to cope," Seamus told the Herald."She was sick herself and I promised her that I had been there for him but she just didn't get over it."

Anne tried to regain control of her life but by last October she fell sick again.

"On November 1, she was admitted for three days in hospital because she took an overdose of morphine [which had been prescribed to her son].

"I asked the doctors to keep her in hospital because she was becoming a danger to herself. She was sent home after three days.

"I think this was partly because they didn't have the space or the staff to look after everyone who needed help.

"There is no guarantee that if she had stayed there it would have saved her life, but she would have been safer (from herself)," Seamus admitted.

Seamus had previously paid for her wife to receive treatment in a private psychiatric hospital however the cost was so high that he was unable to do so again.

On December 15, 2011, Anne jumped in front of a train at Malahide station. Seamus heard the news from their son David (23) who was over from America for Christmas.

"I have to wake up now to an empty house every day, David is in university on a scholarship in the States, I'm very worried about him and he's very concerned about me," said Seamus.

"That's why I want to raise awareness for [suicide prevention service] Pieta House and Console for people bereaved by suicide. We will be holding a comedy night on February 16 at the Leeson Lounge with the Savage Eye.

"I will also be running the London Marathon this year for the Bone Cancer Research Trust, the only charity dedicated to primary bone cancer in Ireland and the UK."

If you are feeling low, contact Console: 1800 201 890 (www.console.ie) and the Samaritans: 1850 60 90 90 www.samaritans.org

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