FURTHER cuts in mental health services would be "devastating" for a service already stretched to breaking point, Amnesty International has warned.
Karol Balfe, Mental Health Campaign co-ordinator at Amnesty International Ireland told an Oireachtas Cross-Party group on mental health that standards are "beginning to slip" within services.
She said mental health services have been disproportionately cut in the current downturn, with spending on mental health services reduced to just 5.3pc of the HSE budget.
Ms Balfe said the Government must set goals that effectively monitor financial accountability, performance and quality of services in order to transform the mental health service provision.
The group was told by members of the Oireachtas that there is a "strong case" for mental health services to be spared from any cuts in the Budget.
Chris Andrews TD, and Senator Frances Fitzgerald have called on the Government to protect mental health funding, as Amnesty International's Mental Health Week continues.
They warned that all the good work on mental health issues to date will be undone if mental-health services are to be the target of "short-sighted cuts".
In a joint statement, Deputy Andrews and Senator Fitzgerald said that all international evidence shows that at times of economic difficulty, people's mental health suffers.
"In Ireland we have already seen a sharp rise in our suicide rates," they said, adding that there was a strong case for mental health services to be exempt from any cuts that have to be made.
Anyone wishing to find out more about Amnesty's Mental Health week can do so at www.amnesty.ie.