Government must invest to address mental health concerns

MHR: Government must use upcoming Budget 2021 to invest more in ‘life-saving’ mental health services

Campaigners have called on the Government to act on its own concerns regarding the well-being of the population and significantly increase investment in mental health services.

Earlier this week, both An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar cited the impact on the nation’s mental health as one of the reasons why the recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to move to a level-five lockdown was rejected.

“An immediate comprehensive lockdown would make it much harder to deal with non-Covid-19 health concerns including the impact of isolation on the mental health of many of our people,” Martin said during an address to the nation on Monday (October 5) evening.

In response, campaign group Mental Health Reform (MHR), which represents more than 70 organisations working in the sector, said the Government must now act swiftly and decisively and use the upcoming Budget 2021 to invest more in “life-saving” mental health services.

MHR Chief Executive Fiona Coyle also criticised the Government for not including mental health in its recently published Winter Plan 2020/21.

“As the pandemic’s timeline lengthens and the response required deepens, mental health becomes ever more central,” Coyle said.

“The Government says it understands how important mental health is, yet its Winter Plan did not include mental health,” she continued.

“Now, just days remain to Budget 2021. Thirty million euro is only enough to deliver a standstill, stay-as-you-are service level for mental health. That wasn’t good enough in good times. With Covid-19 now placing huge pressure on our people and our services, at least €80m will be required on Budget Day.”

Coyle said the approaching winter will be made harsher by the isolation, stress and disruption caused by Covid-19 for the thousands of people who have been on a mental health service waiting list for a number of years.

“Inevitably, others will be admitted to hospital and require other specialist mental health services,” she added.

“For all of these people, mental health must be taken as seriously as physical health. That will require a step change from the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste.”

“There is now only one last remaining opportunity to deliver practical support. That commitment will be measured in the budgetary commitment of the Government to new services, over and above what is required to maintain an inadequate status quo, on a standstill basis. There is no Covid-19 plan, no Winter Plan and no credible public health policy that does not prioritise mental health.”

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