August 8, 2020
Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú raises concerns about impact of pandemic on mental health services

The impact of the pandemic on mental health services and funding was raised by Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú at the Dáil’s Covid-19 Committee last week.

The Sinn Féin TD focused on how just seven percent of annual health funding is spent in the State, while the World Health Organisation recommends 12%. 

He noted that there had been an increase in web-based mental health services eoffered during the lockdown, but these are ‘limited by geography and internet access’ and those who are ‘impacted by adverse childhood experiences and older people’ are not able to access the ‘escape of work or school’.

The Dundalk TD also raised the issue of ‘dual diagnosis’, where people who are struggling with mental health problems and who also have addiction issues are ‘falling between services’. 

He asked: ‘What are the protocols, resources and legislation required to ensure that no wrong door to access services is put in operation?’

The CEO of Mental Health Ireland, Martin Rogan, replied that the ‘separation between mental health services and addiction services doesn’t serve the individual well’.

He said: ‘We need to build services that are person-centric and are not funding or structurally dependent. People do turn to prescription drugs, alcohol and street drugs as a response to the great distress they are feeling about averse childhood experience or trauma.

‘Families are trying to support them and the no wrong door approach is really important because people need to be received at the point of presentation. We would advise a ‘warm handover’ of people so you don’t get to leave one service until you are handed over to another’.

On the dual diagnosis question, Mr Rogan said: ‘It’s not a realistic model to tell young people with psychosis to come back when they have stopped smoking weed’.

Mr Ó Murchú said that another group who tend to fall between services are those with behavioural problems and it is the case at the moment that Gardaí are having to deal with those.

The Acting Clinical Director of Jigsaw, Paul Loughmore, explained how ‘some people find themselves in this situation and the nature of their difficulties excludes them from all services’.

He said: ‘They end up going between services without any clear line of responsibility or one service taking them on.

‘Service integration is the key in this situation. Mental health services are often presented with unique and complex situations. If they come together to discuss which is best or which combination is best, that benefits the individual.

‘Greater communication and collaborative decision-making means that no-one will have no service and be bounced into tonnes of referrals. It allows for care where services come together to offer a suite of support to meet the needs of people and their families’.

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