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Nov 2015 by PCI College

Connection Profile: Mental Health Reform

Making mental health a political priority

Will the actions of this Government, and the next government, show they have listened to mental health concerns?


One in seven adults will have experienced a mental health difficulty in the past year. That’s almost half a million people – our neighbours, our colleagues, our family members, ourselves. These days, the message that ‘it’s okay not to feel okay and it’s absolutely okay to ask for help’ is being shared widely. When people do reach out for help, it’s vital that there are good quality mental health services and supports that are easily accessible to people in their local area, to aid their recovery.

But Ireland’s mental health system is under severe strain due to a legacy of under-investment. Mental health staffing is still 22% below the recommended level and many services are struggling, unable to meet the need. This year the child and adolescent mental health service in one area has been closed for new referrals due to staff shortages, and other areas are facing similar difficulties.

Mental Health Reform campaign During September and October, Mental Health Reform ran a campaign to call on Government to invest an additional €35 million in primary care and specialist mental health services in 2016. 6,500 signed a petition to Government, which was delivered to Minister of State for Primary and Social Care Kathleen Lynch TD on 8th October. Speaking at the petition handover, Minister Lynch said she was “hopeful” of delivering an additional €35 million in next week’s budget.

On Budget Day in mid-October, all eyes and ears were on Ministers Noonan and Howlin’s speeches. The announcement came: an additional €35 million for primary care and specialist mental health services in Budget 2016. Mental Health Reform welcomed the Government announcement and pointed out that delivery on this and prior commitments is needed urgently.

We saw the announcement as an acknowledgement of the thousands of people across Ireland who called for continuing investment in mental health services to redress the years of neglect. The intention to expand the Counselling in Primary Care (CIPC) service including to children under 18 is a positive step in improving early intervention.

Why is investment needed?
During 2015, hundreds of people have told Mental Health Reform about their experiences of mental health services, giving us a very mixed picture of the support available. People with mental health difficulties have been very clear about what they want and need to help them recover. They’ve said that sitting in A&E when they’re feeling suicidal is frightening, that having to wait months for support doesn’t help, that they want to work and live a full life in their community.

They’ve also told us about being listened to and seeing progress, and about the support they get from their community mental health team. We heard many positive stories this year but the overwhelming message from people is still that change is needed, that good quality services must be available all across Ireland and not just in particular areas.
People are seeing how staff shortages are having a negative impact on mental health services. One person commented, “Staff are under severe stress and pressure, leading to poor service.” Another asked: “How much can they actually give to a person with their workloads and a lack of resources?”

Mental Health Reform and Minister Kathleen LynchThis Government and any new government elected after General Election 2016 needs to take urgent action to address the resource shortfalls in the mental health services and develop new ways of providing support to meet the demand for help. Government departments responsible for housing and social welfare must put money into supports specifically for people with mental health difficulties. Secure housing is vital to a person’s recovery and mental wellbeing. People with a mental health disability are also nine times more likely to be outside the labour force than those of working age without a disability. The Department of Social Protection must invest in tailored employment supports to help people with experience of severe mental health difficulties to access work.

People who have experienced mental or emotional distress should get the supports they need to play a full part in Ireland’s recovery.

As one individual said to Mental Health Reform about social inclusion: “People need to be more inclusive, people must take responsibility for each other, we all need to be part of this.”
With an election on the horizon, we all need to be a part of keeping mental health on the agenda. Mental Health Reform will launch an election campaign in January 2016 and urges voters to let their candidates know that mental health is a priority for them.

To find out more about Mental Health Reform’s work and campaigns, sign up to our monthly newsletter: https://www.mentalhealthreform.ie/take-action/newsletter_signup/


Mental Health Reform

Mental Health Reform is the national coalition promoting improved mental health services and the social inclusion of people with mental health difficulties. The coalition currently has 54 members. See www.mentalhealthreform.ie/membership/ for more details. Mental Health Reform acknowledges the support of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government's Scheme to Support National Organisations 2014-2016.

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