Covid trauma expected to increase demand for mental health services

Mental Health Ireland finds pandemic has damaged wellbeing and quality of life

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned of the grim epidemic situation the world is still facing in the near term, and called for continuing efforts to control the disease and get on with people's lives. Video: Reuters

 

Mental Health Ireland, a national voluntary organisation, promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, will tell the Oireachtas committee on Covid-19 that the pandemic has had an extraordinary impact on the mental health and quality of life of the Irish people.

In an opening statement to the committee, its chief executive Martin Rogan said in Ireland less than 7 per cent of health spending was allocated to mental healthcare. He said the World Health Organisation had recommended that the figure should be 12 per cent.

“This fundamental constraint needs to be addressed before considering how the additional demands associated with Covid-19 can be accommodated.”

Psychiatric needs

Mr Rogan said: “GPs and primary care deliver up to 90 per cent of mental healthcare in Ireland, accounting for up to 35 per cent of each GP’s total workload. Approximately 10 per cent of more complex cases are referred forward to community-based, specialist mental health services. These services are designed to treat and support people with the most significant mental health or psychiatric needs and are not designed to respond to more widespread mental health needs.

“Access to GP and community mental health teams had to be adapted during the initial stages of the pandemic and this has greatly disrupted the mental health services for people availing of community-based services. Calls to help lines, self-help, peer-led and voluntary service have surged and many services have had to deploy new resources and adapt existing models to respond to this urgent need.”

Mr Rogan said in the opening statement that research carried out in April had found that more than 50 per cent of participants reported that the Covid pandemic had had a negative or very negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

Fractured routines

“The need for social distancing, self-isolation has strained familial relationships and fractured the protective routines of many lives,” he said.

“Many families lost loved ones and their bereavement was further complicated by public health limitations on funeral arrangements.”

He also said “previously unrecognised mental health needs were uncloaked and highlighted by Covid” and “many have now manifested as new referrals seeking treatment”.

“The dislocation associated with Covid has had a magnifying effect on difficulties extant in many households and these came into sharp focus when the entire household was stressed and pressed into close proximity.”

However he said , the Covid crisis had also “heralded a reawakening of strong community bonds, personal connection and the spontaneous mobilisation of volunteering and collaborative effort”.

Mr Rogan said the pandemic exposed “a critical dependence in our mental health services on overtime, agency staffing and returning retired staff”.