Mental illness exacerbated by recession - support group


A NATIONAL mental health support organisation has noted an increase in people with serious mental health problems because of the additional stress caused by the recession.

Shine urged the Government not to reduce services for vulnerable people at a time they were most needed. “We are seeing more and more people who are becoming unwell because of the stresses and uncertainty of life in the recession. I think this is a very significant issue,” John Saunders, director of Shine, told The Irish Times.

He was speaking yesterday at the launch of Shine’s guide, Taking Control of Mental Illness, which provides information about diagnosis and treatment of serious mental illness.

“People who had been doing quite well in good times are now put under extra pressure and challenges, and the ability to cope is compromised,” Mr Saunders said.

Mental health services need to be reinforced at a time of economic difficulty because “there is a greater demand on those services by people going through a very difficult time in recession,” he said.

Mental health supports had not been exempt from the cuts to public services, but cutting mental health services was a “false economy”. “You are exposing vulnerable people to greater risk of relapse in the future, but they will come back eventually looking for treatment,” he said.

Mr Saunders expressed concern that many in Ireland are treated with medication alone and don’t have access to other treatments.

The new guide covers many aspects of treatment including medication, lifestyle, therapy and nutrition.

“Medication has an important role, but it is not the single most effective way of dealing with mental health. You have to have medication in conjunction with other types of interventions,” said Mr Saunders.

When people are only treated with medication, “the symptoms and conditions are controlled but there is no proactive intervention to help them move on from that position to get back to ordinary life”. The stigma attached to mental health in Irish society is further adding to the concerns of those with mental illness, he said.

“A person often has the burden of the condition to deal with but also the burden of people’s reaction to it.”