Rise in mental health problems linked to crisis
THE ECONOMIC crisis is putting a major strain on people’s mental health with an increase in the rate of suicide, self-harm and admissions into psychiatric hospitals over recent years, according to campaigners.
In its pre-budget submission, the Mental Health Reform campaign group says these indicators highlight the urgent need for the Government to ensure mental health services are protected over the coming months.
Latest official figures show a 7 per cent increase in suicides between 2010 and 2011, while the number of people reporting to hospital with self-harm increased by 4 per cent during the same period, the fourth successive increase.
In the meantime, the rate of first admissions to inpatient psychiatric units increased by 5 per cent in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available.
In its submission, the group says that by continuing to invest in reforming mental health services and related public services, authorities can ensure that people experiencing poor mental health have the best chance of recovering and participating fully in society.
“The Government has a duty to protect the vulnerable in society, and must ensure that the already negative effects of the economic crisis are not exacerbated by the lack of services for people experiencing poor mental health,” its submission states.
In the programme for government, the Coalition parties pledged to “vastly improve access to modern mental health services in the community”.
It also pledged to ring-fence €35 million annually for the development of community mental health services.
However, there are growing doubts among campaign groups and Opposition political parties that these pledges will be fulfilled.
Latest figures indicate that not enough appointments have been made to staff community mental health teams which will be needed to modernise services over the coming years.
The Mental Health Reform group makes eight key recommendations for the Government ahead of December’s budget.
They include a commitment to continue investing in community-based mental health services – €35 million in 2013 – which, it says, have been shown to be better value for money than hospital-based services.
It also calls on authorities to:
Invest in the governance structures to support implementation of A Vision for Change, including resourcing support for the director for mental health.
Ensure there are no further cuts to funding for mental health and related voluntary and community organisations.
Avoid reducing the living standards of people with a mental health condition on social welfare payments by maintaining rates at their current level; reducing the individual minimum contribution for rent supplement back down by €6 per week; and restoring the fuel allowance cut made in 2012.
The submission notes that the link between economic downturns and poor mental health has been firmly established, as reported by the State’s mental health watchdog, the Mental Health Commission.
In a recent submission, it said there was a “wide-ranging and reliable body of evidence which documents a strong negative association between poverty, debt, unemployment, and mental health”.
During this recession, known factors for poor mental health such as unemployment and income inequality are increasing.
With unemployment rates of almost 15 per cent, a widening gap between rich and poor, and some tax increases disproportionately hitting the poor, there is little sign that economic pressure on much of the population will ease any time soon, it says.