Crisis in our mental health services

 

Sir, – Sincere thanks to Patrick Freyne for his article on the ongoing crisis in our mental health services, a crisis which has been tragically exacerbated by the pandemic (“Ireland’s mental health pandemic: From crisis to emergency”, Weekend, January 23rd).

Mental health in Ireland is a Cinderella speciality. As your reporter points out, the allocation of funds as a percentage of the total health budget to psychiatry in Germany is twice that of this country.

There are many excellent health professionals working tirelessly in this field. There are simply not enough of them to meet demand.

Lack of access to services leads to delayed diagnosis and treatment, often ending in traumatic crisis admissions to acute medical hospitals, which are ill-equipped to deal with the patient’s needs.

The problem is even more profound when the patient suffering the acute deterioration has an underlying intellectual disability.

This is a sub-specialist area where acute in-patient services are essentially non-existent in the public sector. The burden on these patients and their carers is often unbearable.

It is time for us as a society to acknowledge the importance of mental health and demand the provision of services that are appropriately staffed and funded, and meet the standards of international best practice. – Yours, etc,

RONAN

McDERMOTT,

Rathgar,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Patrick Freyne’s article made for depressing reading. He highlighted the chasm between successive governments’ grand plans as outlined in commissioned reports and the implementation and delivery of said reports.

The latest, Sharing the Vision (2020), might more accurately be called Sharing the Illusion.

The plain fact is that until such time as governments allocate resources needed to meet their “vision”, mental health services in Ireland will continue to stagger and struggle along.

We spend 6 per cent of the overall health budget on mental health, the lowest in Western Europe, despite the Vision for Change (2006) recommending 8 per cent. This compares with spending of 16 per cent allocated to mental health in the 1980s.

Mental health services are often referred to as the Cinderella service, but may I suggest a more appropriate image would be of King Canute trying to turn back the tide. – Is mise,

TOMAS

McBRIDE,

(Retired Psychiatrist),

Letterkenny,

Co Donegal.