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Statements On Mental Health

One in seven adults in Ireland will have experienced a mental health difficulty in the past year and 9% of the population aged 15 or over has a mental health problem, according to the Healthy Ireland survey. The survey also shows that mental health difficulties are an issue of inequality. The level of mental health problems is considerably more prevalent among people living in deprived areas, at 13%, compared with that relating to the overall population, which stands at 5%.

The Minister of State can see from these facts that writing reports and not implementing them fully is costing Ireland dearly, in that we are not looking after the welfare of our people. Many good people work hard in delivering mental health services throughout the country, but problems in the mental health system are far and wide. Mental health staffing is still 25% lower than recommended in the mental health policy A Vision for Change. Specialist 24-seven mental health crisis services are not evenly available throughout the country and, as a result, people may be obliged to wait for hours in accident and emergency departments. In 2015, approximately one third of child and adolescent admissions to hospital were to adult units. There is no national advocacy service dedicated to families of people with mental health difficulties or dedicated to those with such difficulties who live in the community.

We must not ignore the contributing factor that alcohol has on our mental health and how it exacerbates pre-existing mental health difficulties. Alcohol affects our ability to cope with everyday life and can have significant consequences when we face traumatic life events. Alcohol has a key impact on the number of suicides, being a contributory factor in more than 50% of cases. A total of 11,000 cases involving self-harm present to accident and emergency departments each year, and one third of all cases relate to alcohol. The World Health Organization has estimated that the risk of suicide where a person is abusing alcohol is eight times greater than if he or she were not doing so. Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Irishmen aged between 15 and 24.

In tackling mental health, it is imperative that we look at matters in a holistic way. In particular, we should look at gender analysis. The HSE and the National Women's Council, along with others, have been successful in securing the visit to Ireland in 2017 of the World Congress on Women's Mental Health. The HSE has had a successful project in policy-proofing gender analysis and we should work hard to ensure this is implemented in all mental health areas.

We must also not forget about the families impacted upon by addiction. This issue is extremely close to my heart. We need to ensure the appropriate support services are available to these families, that their risk of mental health issues is reduced by early intervention and that funding is found for organisations supporting them. On a daily basis, I deal with family members who are absolutely heartbroken because somebody they love has an alcohol, drug or gambling problem.

The task before us is huge. It is a difficult task but certainly one we should not shy away from or write a report about. We need direct action. We need to hold Ministers, officials and service providers to account and ensure that we achieve the highest quality of services for the thousands of people throughout the country affected by mental health issues.

Mental Health Reform has been campaigning on the implementation of the recommendations and I support it in calling on the Government and the Minister to implement these recommendations and put our nation's mental health as a top priority. Acting now will save further heartache, anguish and distress to our fellow citizens. A country is judged by how it treats its vulnerable. I want us to be judged well, so, please, let us start acting.

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