Social worker tells of ‘growing BPD epidemic’ in county

A Western Trust social worker has supported a local mother’s fears that borderline personality disorder (BPD) is claiming young people’s lives needlessly.

Erin Donnelly’s 18-year-old daughter Katie had been suffering from the disorder when she died suddenly at the Fermanagh and Tyrone Hospital in Omagh last September.

Lack of treatment and understanding of the mental illness are two of the biggest issues vulnerable young people and adults are experiencing today, Ms Donnelly from Ederney told the Fermanagh Herald last week.


The social worker, who preferred to remain anonymous, agreed and described the situation as a ‘growing BPD epidemic’.

“Although there is a pathway for personality disorders, people with BPD are often excluded. No attempt is made to engage the individual on their level,” she explained.

“The focus is on containment and not on prevention. Childhood trauma or genetic predisposition to this disorder affects sufferers’ quality of life.

“The number of recent deaths of young people proves this is a growing epidemic, but who is helping?

“Groups from the public, voluntary, and private sectors should come together with people with BPD to discuss a way forward. The whole system needs an overhaul.”

BPD is also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) and affects one in every 100 people in the UK.

It is characterised by intense emotions that can change very quickly, fear of abandonment, deep feelings of insecurity, paranoia and difficulty building and maintaining stable relationships.


The mental health social worker suffers from the disorder herself but has not disclosed this to her family or employer because of the stigma attached.

She spoke about her own struggles with BPD.

“From age 18, I received several diagnoses before being finally diagnosed with BPD at age 42 years old. This was not a surprise to me due to the complacency involved [within the health sector],” she explained.

“I shared the same feeling of stigma felt by young people, but I found the necessary services scarce. The help that is given to physical illness is denied to those with a mental illness.”

A diagnosis of BPD is just as stigmatising for professionals as members of the public.

“There is a cloud hanging over those living with this diagnosis,” she said.

“Instead of being a diagnosis involving inclusion, the diagnosis stereotypes the individual into categories such as difficult, attention seeking, or unwilling to engage in services [most of which are not openly available to them].

“This often leaves young people in a constant cycle of engaging in ‘cries for help’ to get the support they need.

“The silence regarding care plans is deafening.”

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