Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health James Browne TD has called on the government to ensure that a dedicated mental health support system is put in place for frontline healthcare and service staff.
He is warning of a mental health crisis as a result of the COVID19 pandemic and the additional stress and anxiety it is putting on those working through the crisis.
Deputy Browne explained, “I understand there is a free staff counselling service available to HSE employees through the Employee Assistance Programme. This service is available all year round and is provided to support employees at a time of difficulty with personal and/or work-related issues.
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in our frontline healthcare professionals having to do more and see more than they ever have before. Along with all other responsibilities, the current restrictions mean that many are having to take the place of family members and provide comfort patients in their final moments. They are the vital link between families and their sick loved ones and the pressure on them is immense.
“These same people then have to go home and worry about their own families. Some have had to move out of their homes due to the risk of infecting their own loved ones, others are simply not in a position to do that and are living with constant worry and guilt.
“I applaud the mental strength of these people, but they are only human, and I think there is a mental health crisis hurtling towards us. While this may not be seen immediately, it will surface in the coming months when the outbreak eases.
“A dedicated COVID-19 counselling service must be established for frontline workers. It should be run by qualified professionals who have a clinical background who are best placed to understand frontline workers and give them the support they need,” he concluded.