Deputy Pearse Doherty spoke last night in the Dáil to plead with the Government to bring forward a comprehensive strategy for mental health services.
During a Sinn Féin debate on the issue of youth mental health, Deputy Doherty said that far more needs to be done, that far more joined-up thinking is needed and that far more support needs to be provided at all levels.
Speaking in the Dáil chamber, he said “I welcome this debate. I will start by quoting the words of Dr. Anne Doherty, who is a psychiatric professional:
We all make decisions every day about who is sick enough to warrant that bed of the four people in front of us. Ideally, you would admit all four.
“That deals with the reality faced by many people. I refer to the services simply not being there, whether those are inpatient beds in facilities that we need or community supports through CAMHS, autism or voluntary services. We have seen the pandemic expose many weaknesses across the State, not least in housing and health.
“We are also facing a serious problem in our mental health services.
“When the Taoiseach announced that restrictions were to be lifted, many of us went back to the way we used to behave and back to going to the pubs, greeting people by shaking hands and being able to visit people.
“No such switch is possible for many people affected by the mental health impact of these last two years.”
He added that things are very dark and grey for many people.
“Unfortunately, when they extend a hand for help and seek the State to reach out and grab them, it is nowhere to be found. Therefore, I urge the Minister of State to examine bringing forward a real comprehensive strategy for mental health services.
“I and my colleagues, Deputies Mac Lochlainn and Ward, who has been doing Trojan work on this issue, had the opportunity to meet with many of the mental health advocacy groups, including those in the health organisations, those that are State-funded and those that are charities, and they all had a similar message for us: that far more needs to be done, that far more joined-up thinking is needed and that far more supports need to be provided at all levels.
“I could talk to the Minister of State about constituents of mine and their experiences. We have seen a spike in numbers in this regard in recent years. One in five young people admitted to mental health institutions suffers from eating disorders. The reality, though, is that the beds are not there.
“When we look at the three public beds in the State, and the numerous reports in this regard, for how many years and how many times are we going to have headlines about this situation in newspapers?
“How many times are young people going to reach out to ask us to do more, only for those calls to fall on deaf ears?
“I welcome this opportunity, therefore, but what I would welcome far more is a real response to dealing with the most vulnerable people in our society and an acknowledgment of the impact of the pandemic on them.