Sunday 23 October 2016

Political parties treating mental health with lip service

Published 28/04/2016 | 02:30

Funds diverted: Acting Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Mark Condren
Funds diverted: Acting Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Mark Condren

Watching the events last night in Dáil Éireann I felt a great sense of shame at the state of our political system. Just 64 out of 158 elective representations turned up to debate Leo Varadkar's recent diversion of €12m from mental health services.

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I realised our political system has turned the term 'mental health' into a mere buzzword.

As a 20-year-old, I have personally seen the desperate need for increased funding in our mental health services. Ireland by its rural nature is a country pre-disposed to certain mental illness such as depression or anxiety. As a country, we should have a heightened awareness of our mental health to combat this.

However, suicide rates keep climbing, waiting lists for services are getting longer and people are being let down by a government that doesn't deem this epidemic to be worthwhile of serious action.

I witnessed a family member being told at a HSE mental health clinic that, while they were ill, they simply weren't ill enough to be treated. I have seen a woman ring the gardaí about her mentally ill daughter under the advice that it was the only way our mental health services would pay attention to her.

I'll never forget one person saying to me: "They don't want to know about you until you have tried something, then they can put you on suicide watch and pretend to make a difference".

Pretend to make a difference - that got to me. And it was that line that echoed in my head last night as I watched the Dáil debate. Pretend to make a difference, pretend to act, and pretend to care. It is this pretence that has led mental health to become a buzzword in Irish political life, a word TDs can throw out during elections to get some votes.

While Fine Gael's outline of mental health policy in its election manifesto was vague and unfocused, Fianna Fáil's was more promising.

It outlined an impressive plan, which focused on the establishment of a new statutory National Mental Health Authority that would be "charged with leading an all-out national programme to promote positive attitudes to mental health and to reduce the incidence of self-harm and suicide".

Yet last night just 15 Fianna Fáil TDs showed up. Yes, some, such as Robert Tory, spoke with great passion but once again it has been proved mental health is just a buzzword.

While I agree with Mr Varadkar that there is a need for change management, modernising practice and driving implementation, I, unlike him am not naive enough to believe that this will come about with decreased funding. Enough is enough.

Amy Gilligan

Stillorgan, Co Dublin

The benefit of Catholic care

Dr Peter Boylan (Irish Independent, Letters, April 26) states he has concern over the Catholic ethos of the St Vincent's Healthcare Group and that modern Irish women and infants deserve better. It would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

Given that Ireland has always been at the top of its care for newborns and their mothers in international rankings, his logic seems illogical. However, given that we are now have the Kenny law and an active push to repeal the Eighth, that would seem to be very much under threat.

Dr Boylan seems to have a complete contempt for Catholic influence in hospitals, but given that the Catholic Church is the biggest medical provider in the world, it seems many would not agree with his conclusion.

Does he want something like the bullying of Obama "care" now to appear in our hospitals? If so, one wonders why the men and women of 1916 even bothered!

Fr John McCallion

Coalisland, Co Tryone

Water charges deferred

Nine months? The exact length of time it takes the 'old hag of Irish politics' to give birth to another ogre!

Richard McDonagh


Remember Bradford victims

The families of those who died and were injured at Hillsborough in 1989 have finally received the result they deserved. This is the end of an exhausting and emotional battle they should never have had to fight.

In a similar vein, 56 people died at Bradford City's Valley Parade stadium in 1985. Theresa May, the British Home Secretary, recently said she is ready to consider a Hillsborough-style independent review into that tragedy, particularly as the Bradford fire may not have been an accident.

In the 18 years before the disaster, there had been nine fires at businesses owned by or associated with the Bradford City chairman Stafford Heginbotham, who died in 1995.

I wish those relatives the strength to continue the fight to find the truth behind that disaster.

Damien Carroll

Dublin 24

Keeping the thrill of intimacy

Even in 2016, teenage girls still live in an unequal world. Women like Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel are still exceptions in male-dominated spheres.

I largely blame women for this inequality as they collude with it. Too many of them accept sole responsibility for demanding children, low-end jobs, abusive partners and sexual crimes. They unquestioningly enslave themselves to social and cosmetic expectations. The fact that women appear naked in films and music videos is perceived to be a step forward in female liberation.

Paying insurance as high as that of more frequently dangerous drivers is also considered by some to be a fair measure of equality. Gender equality is also expressed in taking the same blows and abuse as is meted out to men.

If an embryo could choose its gender, s/he would reach a quick decision after reading the foregoing. S/he would then make an even quicker decision after watching 'Pixie's Sex Clinic' on RTÉ. These embryos could then decide not to pay for a TV licence to RTÉ in return for substandard, undemocratic programming.

Today's teens know more about sex than ever before, yet they still have unplanned pregnancies and STIs. Why, therefore, is there a need for Dr Pixie?

Youngsters must protect what should be private in their future years. To quote Germaine Greer, "a library is where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity".

Thanks to the vulgarity of rap videos, Dr Pixie and other media, innocence no longer lends any thrill to the sexual imagination. Some people need to restore secrecy, soul and mystery to the realm of adult sexuality.

Florence Craven

Maynooth, Co Kildare

Irish Independent

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