A FIREFIGHTER has voiced concern about the number of emergency calls prompted by drug influenced mental health episodes across Cork city.
Fine Gael councillor, Michael Paul Murtagh, who has been working as a firefighter with Cork City Fire Brigade for 24 years, believes drug addiction is at an all-time high and he sees it affecting people from all walks of life in every area of Cork city and county.
The frontline worker warned that psychoactive drugs, in particular, can be a severely aggravating factor when dealing with existing mental health issues. He also made reference to heroin, expressing his devastation when arriving at calls involving overdoses by injection.
Mr Murtagh referred to shocking experiences including river rescues which emergency services are attending on a regular basis and some incidents where people tell him they don't want to be saved.
“Obviously at the start you learn to deal with someone in the water,” he said. “There are certain things that are more effective than others but I always say to the person we are rescuing that "this can’t happen today".
Many of these calls have become etched in the firefighter’s mind.
“I can still remember a teenager saying to me 'I’m an addict and there’s no way out'. They were addicted but they were also ashamed which made the situation even more difficult.” Calls of this nature are common and can be heart-breaking, Mr Murtagh explained, on many levels.
“We have arrived when people are in the middle of the act. A lot of the issues are caused by depression which can often be influenced by drugs.” He described the challenges of river rescues.
"I’ve had big fellas in the river crying on my shoulder as they tell me about their personal situations.”
The firefighter highlighted the dangers of psychoactive drugs.
“They are in addiction and don’t see a way out of it. As are seen in some cancer and pain relief cases, psychoactive drugs can have a positive effect. However, in a mainstream sense there are psychoactive properties in what we deem as soft drugs. Many of us don’t pay much attention to these and believe they are harmless. However, after years of use they can become a serious problem."
He is calling for increased visibility of Gardaí in communities to combat drug use.
“Cocaine isn’t being used in toilets anymore. Instead, people are lining it up on credit cards and on the backs of their phones. That’s not acceptable. There needs to be a visible deterrent and a campaign to remind our society that this is not acceptable. Community Gardaí need to be separated from divisional policing policy.”