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HSE plea Heartbroken Dublin woman insists tragic brother Karl was failed by mental health service

When Karl's friend came home he found a letter on the door saying, 'don't come in and ring the guards'


Karl with his sister Lianne who is pleading for other families

Karl with his sister Lianne who is pleading for other families

Karl with his sister Lianne who is pleading for other families

A heartbroken Dublin woman has accused the HSE of failing her family after the tragic loss of her brother who died by suicide.

Lianne O'Reilly and her family are still piecing their lives back together after the untimely loss of 'the beating heart of their family', Karl Barnes.

The larger-than-life 35-year-old died by suicide in 2018, after he was repeatedly refused psychiatric help.

The devoted mum-of-two who lives in Tallaght, Dublin with her young family, has slammed the HSE and the Government for abandoning her brother.

Lianne who is mum to Kai (8) and Zac (1) told of her distress over the lack of resources for those suffering with mental health issues and said the HSE's aim to make suicide crisis assessment nurses available to all GP's, is simply not enough.

"They are planning to make one nurse available for every 75,000 people. And for the patients that do access this service, they could be waiting 72 hours before they are seen. That will be too late for many people."


Lianne tried to support her brother Karl

Lianne tried to support her brother Karl

Lianne tried to support her brother Karl


Paying tribute to her much-loved brother, Lianne, who also lost her beautiful mother-in-law to suicide said: "It might sound contradictory, but Karl loved life, he loved socialising and going on holiday.

"He had his own business and his own house at the age of 21. He was very driven, but he was also a perfectionist.

"He felt at his age he should have had a partner - all he wanted was a companion to enjoy life with.

"He came out when he was 18 and he struggled with his sexuality since then. The hardest part is knowing how hard he tried to stay alive, and that nobody would help him."

In 2015, Lianne's family began an uphill battle to retain psychiatric supports for Karl when he sank into a deep depression.

"We were afraid that we might lose him, so we begged him to go to Tallaght Hospital. He was checked into A&E - ten hours later he was still there and he was provided with no care. My mam Grace said to a doctor, 'my son is going to walk out of here and take his own life, he needs help'.

"And the doctor said to her, 'he is a grown man, if that is what he is going to do, then that is what he is going to do'. It was the first time he admitted he needed help and the system just abandoned him. The lack of care and lack of empathy was everywhere we turned."

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"A&E should not be a place where someone has to go when they are presenting with suicidal thoughts. Why have specialist services not been rolled out across the country?

"My mam took him home, we hid his car keys and tried to keep him safe but he found them and drove into town to buy tablets to take."

During the same period, Karl overdosed and made another attempt on his life but was fortunately found by a friend.

"We went to James's Hospital with him. A doctor came in, Karl was swaying from side to side because of what was in his system and he said to her, 'please, I really need help'.

"She said, 'I can give you tablets but they'll take six to eight weeks to kick in'. There was always a but with everything.

"He asked if he could drive home and she told him legally he was entitled to because there was no alcohol in his system. He was failed so many times."

Almost half of all presentations (47 per cent) to emergency departments between 2018 and 2020 were due to suicidal ideation, which emphasises the need for early intervention.

"He wasn't even admitted in a lot of these instances because there was a strict criteria you had to meet. You needed to have to have a plan in place to take your own life and proof of letters."

Desperate for help, Lianne contacted a number of suicide support lines. She said: "I rang a helpline and it was around the time the same-sex marriage referendum had been approved. The woman on the line said, 'People have voted in favour of your brother and are supporting his right to be married so should he not be happy?'

"I couldn't believe how blunt and unhelpful she was."

The family eventually found some brief solace thanks to the trojan work of Pieta House.

"They saw how dire the situation was. We were put in touch with a counsellor named Joy, if it wasn't for her and Pieta House, we wouldn't have had those three extra years with Karl."

Recalling the days leading up to Karl's death, Lianne said: "He was excited about the weekend and had lots planned. He was living life and I was due to be married over the coming months."


Tragic Karl Barnes

Tragic Karl Barnes

Tragic Karl Barnes


Just days later, Lianne and her family were dealt the devastating new that would shatter their lives.

"Myself and my younger brother Ryan and mam and dad were in the house when the guards knocked on the door. I will never forget that moment," she said.

"We thought Ryan had gotten into trouble and then I heard them say, 'have you got a son Karl?'

"Karl was living in Walkinstown and they said, 'he was from town,' and for that split second we thought, it's not him, it's not him.

"And then they said, 'sorry, we meant Walkinstown.' They were so ill-equipped to deal with this situation, they were both so young. There should be specialist gardaí who are trained in suicide and bereavement to deliver this kind of news."

Karl knew his friend was away over the weekend so when his friend came home he found a letter on the door saying, 'don't come in and ring the guards.'

"He passed on a Saturday and we didn't get to see him until Monday morning. We had to abide by the morgue's 9 - 5 hours. It was so cruel because he was alone without us at that time," she said.

"What gets me is when people say, 'Just ask for help,' but that help is just not there."

Pleading for the Government and HSE to provide adequate supports, Lianne added: "All he needed was a chance. He was the type of person that would do anything for anyone.

"I remember when I was pregnant on Kai and I was working in a creche and there was a rocking chair and I said it was so nice on my back.

"The next day I came home and the rocking chair was there, he had bought it for me.

Lianne's mum Grace has now channelled her own grief into supporting other families.

"My mam co-facilitates at a bereavement group called Huggs for people who have lost loved ones to suicide, in the Maldron Hotel in Tallaght.

"Our hope is that other families don't have to lose someone they love. Suicide is the real pandemic."

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