Mental health – from crisis to emergency

 

Sir, – Patrick Freyne’s article about mental ill-health following the pandemic was timely and important (“Ireland’s mental health pandemic: from crisis to emergency”, January 23rd).

In highlighting the range of problems, and inadequacies in care that exists, the article neither sensationalised nor exaggerated.

It highlighted the need for information about what is and isn’t working in our services, and the emerging role of mental health reform in providing this.

For example, the NHS in the UK recently reported that it spent less than 1 per cent of its budget on mental health-related services for children and young people.

In Ireland we don’t know how we compare because, staggeringly, we still don’t have data on what percentage of our health budget we spend on these services.

This facilitates a situation where new mental health service funding is announced, only to then be redirected to cover budget shortfalls elsewhere.

Tracking promises made against promises kept is important. Having journalists who highlight the gaps is critical. – Yours, etc,

Prof GARY DONOHOE,

School of Psychology,

NUI Galway.

Sir, – Patrick Freyne’s article resonated so much with my intensely frustrating experiences in dealing with mental health services over the last 15 years. I have dealt with HSE and advocated for mental services for two young family members.

We seem to pride ourselves on not locking people up any more and providing “care in the community” but this is sadly a narrative borne out of HSE campaigns and posters. Having read the recent policy document Sharing the Vision, I can say it is high on ambition and low on resourced action plans, with clichéd references to recovery models, pathways and “care in the community”. Without the necessary action plans and associated resources, such documents are typically referred to in corporate-speak as “shelfware”.

I would also share the view that the current discourse on mental health is too narrowly focused on depression and anxiety. As debilitating and painful as these are, there are so many other complex mental illnesses affecting our families’ lives with more far more specialist help needed.

Let’s look at the ways and means to discover the full breadth and depth of this crisis.

As I listened to the Taoiseach’s apology for the treatment of unmarried mothers, I wondered would the State be apologising in another 30 years – this time for our failure to properly treat those suffering from mental illness? Why not act now! – Yours, etc,

TOM GERAGHTY,

Stillorgan,

Co Dublin.