A national campaign on suicide awareness has been called for by Donegal Sinn Féin Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Speaking on a special Dáil motion on mental health services he lauded the work of youth mental health projects in Donegal and said he hoped the Government can deliver resources in communities “to show that Ireland has genuinely moved forward from the dark days of the big house on the hill where we locked away those we were ashamed of and failed to show decency or compassion.”
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said the supports required at community level - the key personnel who must be appointed to perform vital functions - are not in place. “I commend the individuals, community groups and non-governmental organisations in civic society that have filled the gap. They have, for example, developed strategies on suicide prevention, introduced supports and provided the infrastructure the Government and its predecessors have failed to establish.”
He said it was remarkable that, until recently, there were delays in filling almost every key post dealing with mental health supports in County Donegal. Not all of these delays can be blamed on the moratorium on public sector recruitment. “Those providing front-line psychiatric services are extremely critical of the delivery of services, especially the slow pace involved. A national campaign is required on suicide awareness, similar to the successful campaigns on road safety. We need to see people telling their stories,” he said.
Independent Donegal Deputy Thomas Pringle called for the public service recruitment embargo to be lifted. He said mental health services have long been the poor relation in the health system and have suffered more from under-investment than any other service.
“The annual report of the Mental Health Commission for 2014 highlights the greatest problem facing the service when it points out that of the 63 premises it inspected, only 44% had adequate staffing levels and only 30% of the premises themselves were adequate. Across the community mental health services, the situation in regard to staffing is just as serious. The continued operation of the public service recruitment embargo is putting vulnerable people’s lives at risk,” he said.
He said adequate out-of-hours emergency services could not be provided without adequate staffing levels. Minister for Health James Reilly assured the House of the Government’s continuing commitment to implementing A Vision for Change, the mental health policy framework.