The convenors of the cross party Oireachtas Group on Mental Health have today, World Mental Health Day, 10 October, launched the first ever cross party budget submission in the history of the state to call for the mental health spend to be protected in Budget 2012.
Mental health services have suffered from heavy budget cuts in the past and anything further could bring an already frail system to its knees.
The Cross Party Oireachtas Group on Mental Health, is co-convened by Deputy Dara Calleary (FF) (represented at today’s launch by Deputy Darragh O’Brien), Deputy Simon Harris (FG), Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (SF), Senator Susan O’Keeffe (L) and Maureen O’Sullivan (Technical Group).
Deputy Calleary said: “Put simply, funding for mental health must be held at the Budget 2011 level. We must continue with the reform programme set out in the Government’s mental health policy, A Vision for Change and the promised ring fencing of €35m annually from the health budget to develop community services must be protected.”
Deputy Harris continued: “As the Government gets down to focusing on the Budget I welcome this opportunity to highlight the absolute importance of implementing mental health policy and am happy to join with my fellow convenors from across the political spectrum in working to prioritise the issue of mental health within the political system.”
Deputy Ó Caoláin said: “Evidence shows that community-based mental health services reduce the incidence of suicide as well as reducing admissions to hospital. So any slowdown in the transfer of mental health services into the community is likely to lead to increased use of more expensive options such as inpatient admission as well as the inappropriate use of the prison system and homeless services.”
Senator O’Keeffe added: “Mental health difficulties cost the Irish economy roughly two per cent of GNP annually, and most of these costs occur in the labour market. For the population in Ireland to have good mental health, we need both good social policy and quality mental health services. Having a decent job and a secure income and home are important protective factors for good mental health.”
Deputy O’Sullivan concluded: “Unfortunately, the tendency in most countries is for mental health services to come under increased pressure during an economic downturn. Yet increased unemployment, welfare cuts and rising homelessness are bad for the mental health of Ireland. We know that in terms of economic difficult there is likely to be a greater demand for services. Preserving the mental health budget would show a real commitment to the country’s recovery as a whole.”