Mental health supports ‘immediately’ needed for direct-provision residents

State criticised for failing to initially consider direct provision needs in Covid-19 response

The Doras report criticises the State for failing to initially consider people in direct provision in its Covid-19 response, noting that residents continue to share bedrooms and communal facilities. Photograph: Alan Betson

Mental-health supports and services are urgently needed for vulnerable people who continue to live in direct provision while the Government lays out plans for a new programme to replace the current system, a Limerick-based charity has said.

The Doras charity warned that unsuitable accommodation, delays in case processing, substance misuse and addiction, a lack of support services and the impact of Covid-19 are detrimentally affecting the mental health of people in direct provision.

In a report published today, the charity underlined the need for staff and management in direct-provision centres to be able to “appropriately respond” to the mental-health needs of residents, including people “at high risk of suicide”.

Citing the example of a man who “died by suicide” in a direct-provision centre in Monaghan in August, the charity warned that more residents have expressed suicidal ideation during the Covid-19 pandemic.


The impact of Covid-19 on the lives of those in direct provision, including increased levels of isolation and the stigma associated with being an asylum seeker, is very concerning, notes the charity.

The report criticises the State for failing to initially consider people in direct provision in its Covid-19 response, noting that residents continue to share bedrooms and communal facilities.

The State’s failure to provide vulnerability assessments, “despite having an obligation to do so” since signing up to the European Union recast reception conditions directive in July 2018, means people with pre-existing mental conditions are not being identified, says the report.

Accessible supports are also required for those suffering from substance misuse and addiction arising from “forced idleness”, including social exclusion, long-term unemployment and trauma, it adds.

Targeted, multilingual outreach services are needed to prevent the “further traumatisation” of people already suffering as a result of war, human trafficking, exploitation, grief or loss, Doras director John Lannon said. “We see too many cases of people who feel they have been abandoned with nowhere to turn for mental-health support,” he said.

Mr Lannon commended the Government for it commitment to replacing the current system but noted that supports were needed “immediately” for vulnerable people.

While mainstream mental-health supports are in principle available to asylum seekers, many direct-provision residents are "unaware, or unable to access, such services", he warned. "The problems are compounded by the lack of multilingual mental health services in Ireland, " added Mr Lannon.

Suicidal ideation

The report expressed concern that recommendations from GPs, psychiatric services and other health professionals were not being acted upon by some staff at centres. It also warned that children with suicidal ideation, as reported by numerous bodies including the Ombudsman for Children’s office, is an ongoing problem.

The report calls for single rooms to be made available to at-risk residents and for the introduction of independent monitoring of centres from January 2021.

A spokesman for the Department of Children and Equality said discussions were ongoing with the Health Service Executive regarding the introduction of vulnerability assessments before the end of 2020.

The International Protection Accommodation Service takes account of any identified vulnerabilities when carrying out initial health assessments, said the spokesman.

“Every effort is made to ensure that residents’ specific needs are met,” he said. Where more intensive care needs are required, such cases are referred directly to the HSE and other agencies as appropriate.” Health Information and Quality Authority inspections of direct-provision centres are due to begin early in 2021, he added.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast