CRUEL CUTS TO MENTAL HEALTH BUDGET MUST NOT BE ALLOWED – BROUGHAN

In Dáil Éireann today Deputy Broughan strongly condemned the recently announced cut of €12million from the Mental Health Budget. This €12million is due to be taken back from the additional €35 million which was to be made available each year since 2011. This additional €35 million on top of the €791.6 million funding was to be part of the Fine Gael/Labour Programme for Government to focus on areas of service provision such as counselling for under 18s, clinical programmes for adults and children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dual diagnosis, psychiatry and perinatal mental health services.

Statistically, one in four people will experience a mental health difficulty at some stage in their lives and their own coping mechanisms will determine how much this will affect them during those times. However, the 2014 OECD study ‘Making Mental Health Count – the Social and Economic Costs of Neglecting Mental Health Care’ states that one in two will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime. It is imperative that the appropriate resources are available in a timely manner when a crisis occurs. Early last year, Deputy Broughan requested information, via Parliamentary Questions, regarding the numbers on waiting lists to access counselling and lengths of time waiting. He was informed by the HSE that at the end of February 2015, 478 people had to wait for more than 3 months for counselling. Another PQ reply later confirmed that the waiting list for the age-appropriate treatment through the Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) was 3,000 children, of which approximately 400 were waiting “in excess of 12 months”. This is particularly worrying when Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide amoung 15-19 year olds in Europe.

Deputy Broughan says “It is incomprehensible to me that €12 million would be diverted away from the Mental Health budget because recruitment was not completed in a specified time-frame. Surely this indicates a bigger problem for the staffing crisis being experienced in the sector. There are reportedly up to 700 posts vacant and an approximate 1,000 new recruits needed to fill vacancies that exist and are arising. Support and sufficient resource allocation is needed to ensure that supports are available to those who need it, when they need it – not 6 months or 9 months later when it might be too late. As a country, we have become better at the national conversation to try and remove some of the stigma surrounding mental health. It is now up to public representatives to ensure that resources are protected, waiting times to access treatment is reduced and accessibility to services is improved.”