Photo by Mairéad Farrell
The Galway West TD made the statement following a debate in the Dáil by Sinn Féin’s Mental Health spokesperson, Mark Ward.
Mr Ward said that 5,432 people across 15 hospitals were admitted due to self-harm in 2020.
Mairéad Farrell notes the importance of urgency in action once detailed reports are completed through A Vision for Change.
A Vision for Change is a national directive set up in 2006 that guides Ireland’s Mental Health services using data compiled by experts.
“We need to make sure that when we produce detailed reports such as A Vision for Change, that we take immediate steps to reach the targets described in them. These reports take time, they take resources, and they are written by experts. We need to make sure that we are listening to them.”
“The Government also needs to immediately ensure that sufficient resources are provided to all the emergency departments so that the level of liaison psychiatrists as outlined in A Vision for Change are provided,” said Farrell.
Mental health charity Jigsaw Galway currently has one of the longest waiting lists for support services in the country and has seen a 400 per cent increase in demand for online support services since March 2020. Farrell identifies this as a problem.
“Generally, waiting lists and the length of them do come down to resourcing. We have a serious issue, particularly in the West, with a lack of mental health resources,” she said.
Spokesperson for Samaritans Ireland Catherine Emerson said, “Both government and opposition parties are talking about increasing resources for healthcare, including for mental health, so let’s hope that focus stays with us. In Samaritans, we realize that mental health support and suicide prevention are only part of the solution.”
“A really effective anti-suicide policy would address things like physical health, housing, and financial security that contribute to the feelings of despair that lead some people to suicide.”
Emerson said that video calls with counsellors have been made available over the course of the past two years to those who wish to avail of them.
“The use of technology during the pandemic has allowed us all to do things differently and, while this doesn’t work for everyone, it has broadened access to support for people whose anxiety, disability, or remote location might have meant previously that they couldn’t access help.”
The team at Samaritans are hopeful that the experience of the pandemic has encouraged society to take mental health more seriously.
“We hear a lot of politicians in particular talking about a mental health crisis, but this doesn’t reflect what Samaritans hear on the phone.”
“We know that people have been suffering from poor mental health and have had difficulty getting the right support for it for years – long before the pandemic. What people talked to us about in the past two years wasn’t substantially different from things that they discussed before that: the challenges of life haven’t changed,” she said.
Farrell is hopeful that the problem will lessen provided that pressure is applied on the Government to alleviate the problem.
“I think that awareness of mental health certainly has heightened in recent years, but I do think that pressure will have to come from communities onto the Government to make sure that they keep mental health high on the agenda”, she said.