Independent TD for Donegal Thomas Pringle has called for mental health services to be made available to anyone seeking them.
Over the course of the pandemic some counselling sessions have been cancelled or moved online. During statements in the Dáil on mental health during and post-Covid-19, Deputy Pringle said there are barriers to people seeking urgent support.
Deputy Pringle said: “Online counselling might be great if you are privileged enough to have access to the internet and a private space to talk at home. What about the people who don’t have somewhere to go? They don’t have a laptop or a room in which to speak freely. Yes, there is a free and confidential text number (50808) which is a welcome addition to mental health services, but are we looking at that data for that number? How many texts are coming in? Is there follow-up for the people contacting the text line? What if that person needs to be referred on to further services?
“The country went from ‘we’re all in this together’ to finger-wagging and curtain twitching; pushing blame on each other instead of looking back at the failures of the State. Failures to implement affordable, timely and non-judgemental supports, accessible to all who needs them – in times of crisis and in times of building resilience,” he said.
Deputy Pringle welcomed the Tánaiste’s confirmation that GPs can issue emergency medical cards in extreme circumstances when the deputy raised the issue with Tánaiste in the Dáil last week, and asked whether there needed to be a communications campaign around that.
Deputy Pringle said: “You have to have a medical card to access free counselling. Since the cyberattack, people have been unable to apply for medical cards.” He said his office has been in contact with the Primary Care Reimbursement Service regularly since the cyberattack for updates.
The deputy said: “This is going to create a huge backlog for the service, system and people in need of urgent care.”
Deputy Pringle said: “I know GPs are overworked but we have to ensure blockages in the process are cleared.”