Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marc Mac Sharry says proposals to regulate counsellors and psychotherapists are a long overdue step forward in improving mental health and suicide prevention initiatives.

Deputy Mac Sharry commented, “Mental health is the biggest issue facing this country at the moment but unfortunately the last Government failed to get to grips with the situation.  Budgets were diverted into other areas of the health service and voluntary organisations were left to pick up the slack.  This was simply wrong.

“I welcome the move by Health Minister Simon Harris to begin the process of regulating counsellors and psychotherapists.  It was something that was contained in my own policy document on suicide prevention, Actions Speak Louder than Words, which was published in 2013.  There needs to be a greater focus on the mental health challenges that this country is facing, and this regulation is a much needed step forward.

“The current situation, whereby people who undertake a 6 week online course can describe themselves as a counsellor or psychotherapist, is outrageous.  A 6 week course does not effectively equip someone to deal with the complexities of mental health issues and could expose already vulnerable people to unfit practices.

“This issue needs to be urgently addressed, and I welcome the movement from the Minister on it.  However, I would urge him to move without delay once the consultation process is completed to ensure the best possible outcomes for people with mental health issues”.