pleas | 

Distraught mum slams Dept of Health as her daughter fights for life in drug addiction battle

'I opened my heart with my Stephanie's permission to try and get her the help she wants, what she needs but I have had the door slammed in my face once again'
Tracy Coulter and her daughter Stephanie

Tracy Coulter and her daughter Stephanie

Paula Mackin

Distraught mum Tracey Coulter says she is disgusted by the Department of Health's apparent lack of interest in her daughter's fight for life.

One week after she opened her heart and made a public appeal for help through this newspaper, she says her desperate pleas have been cruelly ignored.

As Tracey faces another week without her daughter being permanently detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act she says she has spent the past few days crying, breaking her heart, knowing that it will soon be too late to save her much loved daughter Stephanie.

The tiny sliver of hope she had last week is gone.

Stephanie during her recovery

Stephanie during her recovery

"I opened my heart with my Stephanie's permission to try and get her the help she wants, what she needs but I have had the door slammed in my face once again," she told the Sunday World.

"It is if no one cares if my child lives or dies, that is how is feels and how it is. I can't believe the people who are supposed to help her are letting her down, effectively letting her die in front of their eyes."

And she hit out at Health Minister Robin Swann who failed to comment on her daughter's individual case or mental health when approached by this newspaper at Tracey's request.

"It's Mental Health Awareness week for God sake and the health minister can't be bothered to get in contact or even comment, even off the record. I really believed and hoped that Robin Swann might have done something to help me but I can't see any evidence of that.

Health Minister Robin Swann. Picture: Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker Press

Health Minister Robin Swann. Picture: Ronan McGrade/Pacemaker Press

"He hasn't even made an attempt to try and get in contact with me which I think he should have when his office was contacted.

"I have turned to every single person I can think of. The church, the politicians, the health service, everyone and still we are where we are today.

"I am a mother who is waiting on her child to die, her baby, because no matter what age they are or how big the get they will always be your baby.

"How cruel and heartless can people be to look at her in the state she is in, serious health issues on top of mental health issues and not think she needs to be detained. How can they hear and read her story and not try to help, where is the compassion?".

Last week the Sunday World revealed the tragic story of Belfast girl Stephanie McKeag who suffers from serious mental health problems and is addicted to heroin and crack cocaine.

The 24-year-old has said she wants to die, no longer able to cope with what has become her reality. Living on the streets, being abused and exploited despite the fact she has a large and loving family who want to care for her.

Her untreated and unmanaged mental health has led her down the path of drug abuse, something her mother says would not have happened if she had been treated for her psychological problems that have been ongoing for almost ten years.

"My child has said over and over again since last week, in the presence of medical staff, that she wants to commit suicide yet here we are and still she has not been detained despite me begging and begging them over and over again.

"I thought last week was bad but I had a wee bit of hope left that someone would listen to me, to listen to my child and then we would finally get Stephanie the help she needs.

"She needs to be sectioned and sectioned for a very long time, not just for a few weeks here and there but for a long time because it will take time to get her well again.

"She can't be allowed to run the streets, hang about with God knows who doing God knows what to get her next hit. She needs to be in a secure environment with mental health specialists who know what they are doing.

"She needs the drugs out of her system, go cold turkey or whatever way they do it and that will take longer than two weeks!

"When that's done we can start getting the drugs, the prescribed medication into her system and then my child will have a fighting chance but no one is listening to me."

Recently Stephanie was in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital receiving treatment to prevent limb amputation after developing a serious infection by injecting through her toes.

She remains a flight risk already fleeing the hospital twice, once turning up to Tracey's door in Dungannon at night in her slippers.

"She has already done runners and no one seemed to notice. The first I knew the first time was when she came in my door after getting a bus from Belfast. I thought that night she was going to die because her temperature was through the roof with the infection, I thought she had that sepsis which can kill you.

"Not one person from the hospital rang me to say she was gone. If she wasn't in so much pain she would be away again, she is threatening to discharge her self now. If the people supposed to be helping her listen, detain her so she can't leave, it's her only chance.

"If she doesn't get the treatment for this infection then that's it. If she leaves the hospital she will go straight into town and score and then God knows what will happen because I can tell you now my child is so frail, so weak, so ill her wee body will not be able to survive another hit of heroin.

"If she is not detained and discharges herself which she will do, she won't get far. It won't end well".

The Sunday World has contacted the Belfast Trust, the Department of Health and the office of Ulster Unionist and Health Minister Robin Swann.

They stated it would be inappropriate to comment on Stephanie's case however the DOH issued a statement outlining the work Mr Swann has done to improve mental health in Northern Ireland.

"Mental health has been one of Minister Swann's top priorities since becoming Health Minister. In June 2021, he launched the Mental Health Strategy 2021-2031 which is a blueprint for reform of mental health services.

In April 2021, the Minister announced a £10m Mental Health Support Fund for those charitable and community organisations that offer support to people with mental ill health throughout Northern Ireland. In response to significant demand, in February this year Minister Swann announced that a further £6.02m would be allocated to the Fund. A total of 107 charities and organisations across Northern Ireland have received funding," a DOH spokesperson said.

Tracey Coulter deemed the statement as false and disgusting.

"That's bullls**t! It's insulting. If that's all true then why is my child where she is today and where has all the money gone because I haven't seen a penny of it to go to help my child and save her life. I will be demanding a meeting with Robin Swann."

paula.mackin@sundayworld.com


Today's Headlines

More Northern Ireland

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices