Plan for better out-of-hours mental health services welcomed

Minister of State Helen McEntee handed petition of 12,000 signatures at Leinster House

Plans to develop out-of-hours access to mental health services for people in emotional distress have been welcomed by campaigners.

Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee said work was underway on a “roadmap” for improved access to services.

She was presented with a petition of almost 12,000 signatures from Shari McDaid on behalf of the Mental Health Reform coalition at Leinster House. The campaign is calling for the delivery of "holistic, 24/7 community based crisis mental health services across Ireland".

Ms McEntee said “improving access to mental health services is a key priority for me as Minister and work is underway in this area. Anyone who needs help should be able to get it.”


But she said there was a need to ensure seven-day access was in place across the country before moving towards the provision of 24/7 access.

“We must walk before we can run. I am glad to say that specific actions are in place around many of the issues raised in the petition.”

Ms McEntee said the HSE had set up a service-improvement project with a dedicated project manager in November 2016. This was designed to help ensure each region provided access to a weekend service for existing clients.

“ I am now working with my department and the HSE on a roadmap to achieve both 7/7, and in due course 24/7 access, to mental health services across the country,” she said.

“Services for all adults and those under 18 are being developed in the light of significant new investment being made available for mental health, balanced against an acknowledged difficulty for the executive in securing suitably qualified and experienced staff for this care programme.”

Broad welcome

Mental Health Reform, which includes groups such as A Lust for Life, Future Voices and Uplift, welcomed the Minister’s comments.

Ms McDaid, who is director of Mental Health Reform, said it was good to see that the Minister had heard the concern of thousands of individuals affected by mental distress.

“Better access to out-of-hours crisis mental health support is urgently needed. I look forward to seeing the roadmap and hope to see in it actions that will achieve the needed improvement in access for people of all ages in severe mental and emotional distress.”

She noted the Minister had recently confirmed recruitment can now begin of 114 assistant psychologists and 20 staff grade psychologists to increase mental health capacity in primary care.

The initiative, which was allocated€5 million in 2016, was key to reducing waiting lists for child and adolescent mental health services and should now be progressed by the HSE as a priority, Ms McDaid said.

Ms McEntee urged anyone experiencing suicidal ideation to contact their GP or go to their nearest hospital emergency department.

The 24-hour Samaritan phone line service is also available on 116 123.