Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health James Browne has secured backing from the Minister for Health to establish a Mental Health Taskforce to address the serious mental health issues which have arisen and will emerge as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy Browne says a range of services will be needed in the aftermath of this crisis; from mental health supports for healthcare staff, to bereavement counselling for those who have lost loved once but have not been able to grieve surrounded by their family and friends.

“COVID-19 is our new reality for the foreseeable future. We rightly focus on the immediate infection curve and flattening it. But there is another curve that is rising and that is mental ill-health. This needs to be addressed. The fallout of this pandemic is having a major impact on people’s mental health, which will be felt in communities long after the virus has passed, and will could emerge as a secondary crisis in the months and years that follow unless urgent action is taken”, he explained.

“People right across this country are suffering from unprecedented social anxiety. They are experiencing increased stress and anxiety due to health, economic and family strains.

“Even before COVID-19 the epidemic of isolation and loneliness in Ireland was one of our greatest public health risks. Isolation is now government policy, for understandable reasons: but that doesn’t in any way lessen the mental health impact that it is having on people. I know many people, particularly grandparents who can’t see their grandchildren, and those in residential care settings who are seriously suffering due to isolation. Many of them are also understandably concerned at the sharp increase in the number of deaths in nursing homes and residential care settings.

“The public health emergency has also exposed the need for broader health and social services; vulnerable people such as those suffering from domestic abuse, those with mental illness and those with addiction issues who are finding their situation compounded by current events.

“I am pleased that Minister Harris has agreed to set up a Mental Health Taskforce. We need a coordinated approach to deal with the very real mental health issues which are already with us, and which are coming down the road. It is imperative that we have a strategy in place to deal with the wide variety of issues affecting people as a result of this unprecedented pandemic”, concluded Deputy Browne.