January 12, 2023
Sinn Féin mental health survey lays bare experiences of ordinary people attempting to access mental health services – Mark Ward TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has published the results, which can be read here, of an online survey he conducted for people to share their experiences of attempting to access mental health services.

The report details how over 20 percent of those surveyed referred for counselling by HSE waited more than one year for their first session.

It also includes details of the proposals that a Sinn Féin government would have delivered in Budget 2023 to improve mental health services and supports through additional investment and recruitment.

Teachta Ward said:

“People should have the right to mental health supports when they need it and where they need it. We know that mental health problems do not occur between the hours of 9 to 5 on Mondays to Friday – they can happen anytime. 

“Therefore, we need mental health services that are accessible and operate on a 24/7 basis in order for people to get the help they need.

“What this survey has shown is that people who are engaged with our mental health services are not getting the treatment they need and deserve.

“The survey received 227 responses from 28 counties across the island of Ireland, including 171 comments about peoples real lived experiences of Ireland’s Mental Health Services.

“Only 13 percent of the respondents found that they were always treated with dignity and respect in a HSE mental health setting and of those who were inpatient only 5 percent strongly agreed that they were treated with dignity and respect.

“Over 70 percent of people who responded said that they were not appointed a key worker and almost 90 percent stated that they did not receive a care plan developed for their recovery even though 70 percent of people would have liked one.

“One respondent said, ‘Getting appointments is extremely difficult especially when you aren’t already in the system and the waiting times to see doctors are at least a few months long’.

“Another said, ‘A long wait for initial visit with a psychiatrist after GP referral. Long wait times between appointments (8 weeks) with limited help in between. Two psychiatry visits in total, no psychology available to support with further diagnoses as advised with no actual support from the HSE themselves. Thankfully, I had enough income to pay for private counselling/psychotherapy’.

“A&E departments are not appropriate environments for anyone suffering from mental ill health but because of the lack of access to 24/7 emergency mental health services it is sometimes the only option for people. 

“Almost 60 percent of people who took part in our survey attended an emergency department to seek support for mental health difficulties in the last two years, yet 85 percent of them felt that they did not get the support they needed.

“There was a high rate of treatment totally focused on medication with the majority of respondents disclosing that they were not involved in the decision making process about their medication intake.

“The survey also highlighted the impact the cost of living crisis and housing crisis is having on people’s mental health.

“A lack of political will and bad policy choices by successive governments has seen mental health funding and related services diminish over the past 25 years. 

“Sláintecare recommended that a minimum of 10 percent of the overall health budget should be allocated for mental health, the World Health Organisation currently recommends an expenditure ratio of 14 percent. Mental health expenditure in the South equates to 5.6 percent.

“Sinn Féin in government would change this.

“We would put people first and would put the emphasis on early intervention that would lessen the likelihood of people needing more acute services as they get older.

“This report tells the story of how ordinary people are impacted as they attempt to find help for their mental health.”

The survey results can be read here.

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