Poverty has impact on mental health, says TD


UNEMPLOYMENT, DEBT and poverty were having a significant impact on people’s mental health, Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan told the Dáil.She said the Mental Health Commission had revealed something that was known anyway: recessions were times of high stress.

“The irony is that at a time of increasing stress and strain, there are less resources,’’ she added.

Ms O’Sullivan said it was the fault of every government since the State’s foundation that mental health was the Cinderella of the health service.

“The Cinderella within the Cinderella is the area of intellectual disability,’’ she added.

She said that one-in-four people would develop a mental health issue at some point in their lives.

“I think that mental health has to do with all aspects of our lives.’’

Ms O’Sullivan was moving a Private Member’s motion noting that funding for mental health had dropped from 13 per cent of the health budget in 1986 to just 5 per cent in 2010.

The motion was debated in the House on Tuesday night and last night.

Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch said the manner in which people with emotional problems, or whose mental health was not great at certain points, were judged was a problem.

“We need to keep saying this,’’ she added.

Ms Lynch said the great progress made in society on the issue had not come from the Dáil.

“Although we eventually legislated in certain areas, the progress was made by groups outside who pushed us to introduce the relevant legislation.’’

Ms Lynch said the 2011 budget had provided special consideration for the mental health and disability sectors, with a relatively low reduction of 1.8 per cent.

Approximately €920 million was provided for mental health services this year.

Meanwhile, under topical issues, Wicklow FG TD Simon Harris said young people experiencing mental health problems were at exactly the same, if not a greater, risk of rejection, damage to self-esteem and a reluctance to seek support as their adult counterparts.

He called for a more specifically targeted programme to ensure young people left school empowered with the tools required.

Minister of State for Education Ciarán Cannon said the social, personal and health education programme had been a mandatory part of the primary school curriculum and junior cycle since 2003 and was designed to promote positive mental health.