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Ireland’s mental health system is ‘out of date and not fit for purpose’

The Chief Executive of the Mental Health Commission said that there is a need to invest properly in community mental healthcare services

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Martin Rogan, CEO of Mental Health Ireland (Oireachtas TV)

Martin Rogan, CEO of Mental Health Ireland (Oireachtas TV)

Martin Rogan, CEO of Mental Health Ireland (Oireachtas TV)

The CEO of the Mental Health Commission said Ireland’s service is not fit for purpose and out of date.

John Farrelly told the Dail’s Covid-19 committee there is a need to invest properly in community services and to stop “making excuses”.

He said: “There was a report published this week by the HSE and it shows significant issues around waiting times for people. To put it frankly, our mental health system is not fit for purpose and out of date. We need to invest in it and invest in the community.

“There is no doubt that until we invest properly in our community services and stop making excuses that we have some kind of a service then really what we’re looking for, for our children is not going to improve in this day and age.”

In response, the HSE’s head of operations for mental health, Jim, Ryan said he “fully respects the view of the independent regulator”.

Mr Ryan said: “I fully agree that there is always a need for further resources within mental health and we have been working within the resources we have to make the maximum use of staff we have.”

Martin Rogan, chief executive of Mental Health Ireland, said that while people had coped in the immediacy of lockdown measures, the aftermath might not be felt for some time.

The committee discussed the impact the pandemic has had on mental health services and heard that demand for help had increased by 200%.

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Kate Mitchell, from Mental Health Reform, said the sector had been ‘incredibly responsive’ (Screengrab/Oireachtas TV/PA)

Kate Mitchell, from Mental Health Reform, said the sector had been ‘incredibly responsive’ (Screengrab/Oireachtas TV/PA)

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Kate Mitchell, from Mental Health Reform, said the sector had been ‘incredibly responsive’ (Screengrab/Oireachtas TV/PA)

Mr Rogan said mental health issues may be exacerbated throughout the crisis and warned of a “slow-burn effect” from the impact of coronavirus restrictions.

“Sometimes when a person has a mental health issue they do their utmost to pretend they are fine. When some family members came together they discovered their partner, son or daughter was masking a significant mental health issue, be it anxiety, depression or perhaps an eating disorder,” he told the committee.

“We can expect to see a slow-burn effect in terms of Covid. People cope in the immediacy of the here and now but when people look back they feel the dislocated effect from those certain routines that protected their health.”

Kate Mitchell, senior policy and research officer at Mental Health Reform, said that a survey published on Tuesday showed the increase in prevalence of mental health difficulties and increase in demand for support.

“While the sector has been incredibly responsive, it doesn’t negate that there are challenges for these services,” she added.

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Dr Joseph Duffy, from Jigsaw, said there had been a 200% increase in people seeking support (Screengrab/Oireachtas TV/PA)

Dr Joseph Duffy, from Jigsaw, said there had been a 200% increase in people seeking support (Screengrab/Oireachtas TV/PA)

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Dr Joseph Duffy, from Jigsaw, said there had been a 200% increase in people seeking support (Screengrab/Oireachtas TV/PA)

“Many of our members say Covid-19 has had a negative impact. Some 75% report they had to withdraw services they would usually provide.

“It is imperative that the community and voluntary sector have additional support and resources.”

Dr Joseph Duffy, chief executive of Jigsaw – the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, said there had been a 200% increase in the number of people seeking support through itts mental health platforms.

Paul Longmore, acting clinical director of Jigsaw, said that some young people had found support within their family.

He said: “For some young people we have spoken to, their family situation has proven very supportive.

“We have seen the importance of a supportive adult in the life of a young person and some have been pleasantly surprised by how their family have come together to support them at a difficult time, when they are missing out on structure, such as school.

“There are certain families who are experiencing certain distress and sometimes that is manifesting in relationships.”

The World Health Organisation recommends 12% of total health spending should be allocated to mental health care. In Ireland, this number is less that 7%.

In a statement, Mr Rogan said that “fundamental constraint” needed to be addressed before considering how additional demands associated with Covid-19 could be met.

Mr Rogan also said that Ireland did not compare well with its European partners in relation to its mental health budget.

PA