State treatment of asylum seekers creates ‘legacy’ of mental illness

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin introduces Private Members’ motion on mental health

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Government to commit to an annual allocation of €35 million for the development of community mental health teams and to properly resource mental health services. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Government to commit to an annual allocation of €35 million for the development of community mental health teams and to properly resource mental health services. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

MARIE O’HALLORAN

The State’s treatment of some sectors of society is damaging their mental health, the Dáil has heard.

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the disgraceful conditions in which asylum seekers were detained in direct provision was an example of how “the treatment of some sectors of society by this State is undoubtedly damaging the mental health of many individuals”.

He warned that such treatment “is creating a legacy of mental and physical illness, especially for the children held in these centres”.

Mr Ó Caoláin was introducing a Private Members’ motion on mental health calling on the Government to commit to an annual allocation of €35 million for the development of community mental health teams and to properly resource mental health services.

He said the Government must also provide proper levels of staffing for mental health services. Only 44 per cent of psychiatric hospitals and mental health facilities were compliant with staffing level regulations because of recruitment embargoes.

Adult units

Mental Health Commission

Minister for Health James Reilly has accepted the motion and said it was aligned to the Government’s policy and he saw no reason to divide the House. The Government was committed to mental health service reform and to eliminating stigma. The Government had committed to ringfencing community mental health and had delivered on this.

He said the Government’s main capital-funding mental health project was the redevelopment of the Central Mental Hospital allied with regional mental health care.

Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín said 10 people died every week from suicide and eight of them were men.

The Government could make a radical difference through the proper funding of treatment and diagnosis.

Fine Gael’s Mary Mitchell O’Connor said there were between 350 and 500 suicide programmes and organisations in the State, all fighting for resources from the same pot and there was no cohesion. She told Dr Reilly: “Minister, this cannot continue. This lack of cohesion is severely damaging.”