Suicide prevention services are underfunded in Ireland – says East Cork Sinn Fein Cllr

28 November 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth

Sinn Féin General Election candidate Cllr Pat Buckley warned the government that it must address its chronic underfunding of suicide prevention services.

Above: Cllr Pat Buckley

Councillor Buckley was speaking following a suicide prevention event in Youghal this week in which local man Nigel Kirby decorated his house, with spectacular Christmas lights, and accepted donations on behalf of Let’s Get Together – Suicide Prevention Foundation.

He also made a personal appeal to those who maybe experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts to reach out and tell somebody.

Cllr Buckley said;

“Preventative and early intervention mental health care remains underfunded. 1 in 7 adults in Ireland, 644,000 people, have experienced a mental health difficulty in the last year.

“The sector is cracking due a serious lack of staff. Between 2008 and 2015, there was a loss of over 1,000 mental health staff and staffing levels were only 77% of the recommended level in A Vision for Change. In child and adolescent mental health services the situation is more severe with just over half of the staff required in post.

“In my 15 years working as a volunteer in Suicide Prevention, the situation has not improved. I hope that I am wrong but without immediate intervention and a rapid response approach, to tackle this issue of suicide, the situation will not get any better.

“There is also a major problem when it comes to budget. Just 6% of the total health budget goes to mental health, compared to 7.2% in 2006 and far short of the 10% target.

“The overall budget is insufficient also. Nine years on from the publication of the strategy, just 6% of the total health budget goes to mental health, compared to 7.2% in 2006 and far short of the 10% target. In 2014, there were delays in spending the €35 million promised in Budget 2013. In fact, and in practically every year of this Dáil term, this Government is not even spending the amount to which it publicly.

“In terms of crisis supports, more than nine years after the publication of A Vision for Change, mental health services are still not uniformly providing the basic model of care that includes 24/7 crisis intervention, home-based and assertive outreach treatment, with crisis houses as the norm in all areas.

“The people of East Cork are losing out on vital resources for suicide prevention. Unfortunately, it’s the voluntary sectors that are left to carry the enormous burden. The way the issue has impacted East Cork has been well documented over the years. However, this is a national scandal and it must be addressed in that context.

“A clear framework for collaboration and referral between mental health services is lacking and this must be addressed.

“I want to commend Nigel Kirby for his amazing and selfless gesture. There is also a very special tree in the garden called ‘The Memory Tree of Life’. People who have lost loved ones to suicide can put a ribbon with their name on the tree in their memory.

”On a personal level, I am appealing to everyone to look after each other over the festive season and if you’re not in a good place, please tell someone.”

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