23 December 2016
By Bryan T. Smyth
Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley has urged the public to look after their mental health over the Christmas period.
The East Cork TD, who is the party’s deputy All Ireland spokesperson for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, said the holiday season was a particularly tough time for those facing mental health problems and the families of people lost to suicide.
“Christmas is a wonderful time for many people but for those suffering from mental health issues it is a particularly challenging time,” he said.
“Between 2005 and 2015 there have been over 7500 recorded suicides in the south and just under 4500 in the north since the Good Friday Agreement.
“That’s 12,000 empty seats at the dinner table this Christmas and that makes for a stark reality check. Ireland is in the grip of a mental health crisis.
“For many others there will be no dinner table at all this Christmas. Homeless in Ireland is now a national emergency and should be treated with the same urgency as the infamous bank bailout.
“Others will be facing their very last Christmas dinner in their family home this year as the banks and vulture funds rub their hands in anticipation of an early New Years present as they evict another family.
“Many older people will sit at the dinner table this Christmas in total isolation or with just a pet to keep them company whilst all the time worrying about the choices that they have to make, like will I turn up the heating or will I hold a little back so I can afford to pay my property tax in the new year.
“Many people will be working this Christmas helping the sick and frail in our hospitals and many more carers will be offering their services free just to make sure that others are looked after on Christmas Day.
“All these issues and countless others will be preying on the minds of thousands this Christmas, making them feel trapped in poverty, homelessness or debt with no way out.
“This Christmas, while I wish everyone a joyous and happy holiday, I would also urge them to spare a thought for those less fortunate than them and to pledge to pay greater attention to the needs of friends, family, neighbours and crucially, themselves, in the New Year.
“Talking can be the first step to dealing with these problems but if we mean to address them on a national scale then there needs to be the political will.
“That will is clearly lacking in the current government. As an example, they have recently voted against a Rent Certainty Bill no less than three times.
“For the New Year let’s hope that the people of Ireland will unite and tell this government that it’s not good enough; that there is a better way of doing things.”