Donegal Sinn Féin Pearse Doherty and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn have urged cross-party support for Sinn Féin’s motion calling for an emergency response to the accelerating mental health crisis, which will be heard in the Dáil on Wednesday.
The Donegal TDs will meet with representatives of groups and organisations working to promote mental health in Donegal on Tuesday evening.
Any such groups or organisations not yet contacted should reach out to Sinn Féin offices in the county for details of the meeting in advance.
Deputy Doherty said that pre-pandemic mental health waiting lists were already at crisis point, but the avalanche of depression, isolation, loneliness and anxiety since the onset of Covid-19 has overwhelmed services.
Deputy Doherty said “Sinn Féin has engaged with service providers, service users and advocacy groups locally and nationally. What we are witnessing here in Donegal is being mirrored across the state – alarming increases in depression, isolation, loneliness and anxiety.
“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, access to mental health services has gone from a crisis to an emergency. Pre-pandemic, mental health care waiting lists within the public system were at crisis levels but are now at unprecedented emergency levels.
“Now more than ever we need to ensure that mental health services are accessible for all those who need them. Nobody should be left behind.
“There are extraordinary pressures on mental health services, which have suffered years of underinvestment and, as a result, are wholly unprepared and under-resourced to deal with this emergency.
“We now have 2,551 children and young people waiting for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, 8,893 children waiting for primary care psychology, and 1,553 adults waiting on primary care psychology treatment with the HSE.
“Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health recently published our proposals to tackle this crisis and we are now urging government to deliver an emergency response.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said “Sinn Féin’s motion calls on government to:
· Establish an emergency talk therapy fund to provide an additional 128,000 sessions with accredited counsellors/therapists in the private system for those in need of immediate support on referral from a GP;
· Remove GP and medical cards accessibility barriers to deliver universal access to counselling in primary care;
· Recruit 138 additional child/adolescent psychologists and 138 additional adult psychologists to provide additional capacity in every primary care facility;
· Assist community organisations to continue to provide mental health supports;
· Create funding streams to support trainee counselling psychologists during the pandemic;
· Establish a 24/7 Care Public Crisis De-escalation, Multi Agency Triage Team Ambulance Service in every CHO area;
· Maximise surge capacity within all private hospitals with acute mental health beds in accordance with the ‘surge capacity’ agreement currently in place.
“Sinn Féin is calling on all TDs to support our motion. The government urgently needs to step up the plate. Failure to deliver an emergency response to this crisis will set back services, and those in need of them, for a generation.”