Review of effects of Covid-19 restrictions on mental health urged

Oireachtas group calls for State funding for counselling and support services for suffering

Evidence is emerging of the “suffering and the long-term effects on mental health” of not being able to grieve properly because of Covid-19 curbs.

Evidence is emerging of the “suffering and the long-term effects on mental health” of not being able to grieve properly because of Covid-19 curbs.

 

The mental health effects of Covid-19 restrictions on palliative care, end of life supports and funerals need to be reviewed retrospectively, a report from an Oireachtas group has recommended.

Evidence is emerging of the “suffering and the long-term effects on mental health” of not being able to grieve properly because of the curbs, it says.

An interim report from the subcommittee on mental health on Covid-19 and its effect on mental health services is due to be published on Wednesday.

The committee recommends that the Department of Health introduce emergency measures to meet the current surge in demand for mental health supports and services, including a “fit for purpose” 24-hour suicide prevention support team.

It has also called for State funding, management and multidisciplinary planning for mental health services to be increased to “ensure timely, appropriate and accessible services are provided for the population and the matter of long waiting lists needs to be urgently addressed”.

‘Someone to talk to’

Free universal access to counselling would remove barriers to people getting appropriate help they need when they need it,” it says.

Independent Senator Frances Black, chair of the sub-committee, said the report raises awareness of the impact Covid-19 restrictions have had on the mental health of the population.

“The voices of those working on the ground, at local level in both urban and rural communities nationwide, need to be heard and listened to, and their concerns regarding support services need to be addressed,” she said.

“The issues were always there and the support services were always somewhat lacking, but Covid-19 has affected us all and, as we emerge from the pandemic, our awareness of our need for someone to talk to, something to do, someone to be there when we are struggling to cope, with addiction, violence, boredom, depression, fear, anxiety, is part of our humanity.”

Specialist resources

The report also calls for State agencies to “effectively engage with and respect the work of” organised community groups. Additional resources should be made available to embed this recognition within the overall framework of mental health care and in particular to include this work in planning for the rollout of Sláintecare, it says.

Other recommendations include increasing resources for specialist mental health services for youths, international protection applicants and Travellers.

The report calls for the development of a national Traveller mental health action plan as promised in the programme for government. It also says there should be a national health campaign highlighting addiction and “a comprehensive dual diagnosis service that includes joint care plans between addiction services and mental health services”.

In addition, the committee recommended the selection of mental health services to be broadened to give people more choice between online and offline services, with extra resources to support those who have digital capacity issues.