July 1, 2021
Gardaí should not be the gate keepers for mental health services – Mark Ward TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health Mark Ward TD has described the annual report published today by the Mental Health Commission, which highlights the significant jump in applications made by An Garda Síochána to involuntarily detain patients, as a “damming inditement of the system”.
 
Teachta Ward said:
 
“The 2020 Annual Report of the Mental Health Commission has shown that some of the most serious and persistent weaknesses of the country’s mental health system have been critically exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“The report states that in 2020, the highest number of applications to involuntarily detain people came from An Garda Síochána.

“In total, there were 1,919 admission orders for involuntary detention from the community in 2020, with 32% of these initiated by An Garda Síochána.
 
“More often than not, the Garda are left to deal with people who are having a mental health episode or who have a history of mental health problems, including suicidal ideation.
 
“The lack of 24/7 emergency mental health care is a factor in this.

“People are turning up to A&E departments with mental health problems. This is not the place for people having a mental health episode.

“They are often not treated or sent back into the community with very little if any follow up.
 
“Family members are often begging the Gardaí to involuntary detain the person experiencing mental health difficulties, as they are that worried about them and they feel that they have nowhere else to go.
 
“On the back of a Sinn Féin motion, the Gardaí will be rolling out a pilot project in Limerick in 2022 that will involve a multi-agency crisis de-escalation team. This team will consist of a mental health expert and a specially trained Garda.
 
“The team will go to someone who is having a mental health episode in our community, triage them, treat them, refer them and or bring them to the appropriate service.
 
“While this is very welcome, it needs to be rolled out across the state and the referral services need to be in place to help the person. This is very often not the case.
 
“It is a damming inditement of the mental health system that the Gardaí are now the gate keepers for those experiencing mental health difficulties, because the mental health system is not fit for purpose.
 
“I will be contacting the Minister for Justice to see what additional training the Gardaí can avail of, and I have also sent the Minister for Mental Health a copy of the report.

CRÍOCH/ENDS

Note to Editor:

Click here to view the report in full.

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