Fianna Fáil Seanad spokesperson on Health Marc Mac Sharry has accused the Government of paying lip service to mental health issues, without investing the necessary funding or resources to adequately address mental health and suicide prevention initiatives.
Senator Mac Sharry made the comments following statements on Suicide and Mental Health in the Seanad.
He said, “Government promises on mental health provision have been repeatedly broken, and the initiatives being progressed fall well short of what is needed to effectively deal with what has become the nation’s silent crisis.
“Minister Lynch has betrayed mental health services by not restoring the full mental health budget in 2015. In October 2013, she swore that €15m taken from the budget in in 2014 would be restored in 2015. That has not happened. Minister Lynch’s inability to defend a budget that was meant to be ring-fenced demonstrates how far down the Government’s agenda this issue has fallen. Suicide is the greatest health threat facing this country and securing the €15m in funding, which had been raided from the budget the previous year, should have been the absolutely minimum that should have been delivered.
“The people in need of these services are some of the most vulnerable and at-risk groups in society, yet instead of investing in healthcare provision this coalition has consistently re-directed resources to other areas. “A Vision for Change”, which was introduced by the previous government has effectively stalled under this administration. It is being implemented unevenly and inconsistently across the country and there appears to be little desire to improve standards.
“Mental health organisations, volunteers and professionals are working in extremely constrained conditions because of regressive budget cuts brought in by this Government. At the same time, Ministers seem averse to supporting proposals to secure additional funding for the sector. Earlier this year, I moved the Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Bill, which provided a sustainable funding model for mental health services. The Bill was broadly based on my policy document “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”, and would have provided the necessary resources to reduce suicide by 30% over the next 10 years. Despite the wide-ranging impact these measures could have made in reducing suicide rates, Government Senators voted against the Bill.
“Mental health issues are continuing to have a devastating impact on our society. The number of deaths through suicide each year is the equivalent to the population of an entire village. Despite the scale of the crisis, the Minister failed once again to secure an adequate budget. Despite its own rhetoric, the Government is failing the mental health sector and unless urgent action is taken, essential services are in danger of coming to a standstill, exacerbating the current crisis further”.