Patient with eating disorder ‘told to walk, and meditate, not given access to therapist’

Dáil is told mental health services reflect ‘attitude of bygone era’

Public mental health services ‘reflect the attitude of a bygone era’, Dáil is told

Public mental health services ‘reflect the attitude of a bygone era’, Dáil is told


A public patient with an eating disorder and who suffered trauma was told by medical personnel to “take a walk and meditate” rather than receive the therapy they needed, the Dáil has been told.

Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell also said the public mental health services “reflect the attitude of a bygone era” with supports operating on a nine-to-five basis rather than 24 hours a day.

The Galway West TD said that in an anonymous mental health survey she conducted in her constituency one patient highlighted the lack of resources, expertise and consistency of response in services.

She quoted the patient who said “I see a different nurse or doctor every single time I have an appointment. They don’t have accurate knowledge of one’s individual case and therefore don’t have much to offer in the way of useful support.

“I’m repeatedly told to take a walk and mediate when actually I need a therapist. I need eating disorder services that don’t exist. I need trauma support.”

Ms Farrell said one message was “loud and clear” that “we need 24-hour mental health care and the lack of care outside nine to five reflects an attitude of a bygone age and we need better than that.

“Mental health challenges are 24/7 so our response needs to be 24/7.”

She was speaking during a debate on a Sinn Féin motion to provide a significant emergency investment in mental health care for six to 12 months for private practitioners to provide “surge capacity” giving urgent immediate care.

Introducing the motion, the party’s mental health spokesman, Mark Ward, said private care would meet immediate demand to give the public system the “breathing space it needs for the long-term”.

He said there should be an emergency talk therapy fund providing access to an accredited counsellor or therapist on referral from a GP. The Irish College of General Practitioners said a lot of their members would be able to provide the service in their own practice – a one stop shop.

“This is not aspirational; it is doable, and it’s achievable, and it’s realistic and with the right political will it can be implemented very quickly.”

He also called for an expansion of Cams (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) to meet the demand of the more than 2,500 children who are waiting months and years for appointments, the recruitment of an extra 280 psychologists, and the removal of the GP visit and medical card accessibility barriers to access services.

Sinn Féin Kerry TD Pa Daly highlighted a review of the files of more than 1,500 children and adolescents who were prescribed excessive amounts of medication in south Kerry. A report in the Irish Independent pointed to concerns that the children were prescribed dosages more appropriate to adults and may have suffered significant health issues as a result.

Mr Daly said “we must have confidence that children and adolescents are getting the best care possible” and he asked how long the HSE knew about this and if the lack of funding and services “led to a rush to chemical intervention”.

Labour leader Alan Kelly questioned how the issue arose in the first place and why the review was going to take 16 weeks and said “some people don’t even know they are affected”.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly asked if the review was exclusively in south Kerry, applied in the west or throughout the country.

Minister of State for Health Mary Butler said the Government would not oppose the motion and agreed with many of Sinn Féin’s ideas. She said the Share the Vision plan will fund the recruitment of 153 additional staff and services. The Government’s talks therapy model “will ensure that talking therapies are accessible, evidence-based but are recovery orientated”.

Minister of State Frankie Feighan said enormous work had been done to improve mental health services. The suicide-reduction strategy has been extended to 2024, and more than €1.1 billion in the budget will allow the State to develop and enhance new services, he said.