Wednesday 13 November 2019

'Large majority' of public call for increase in mental health funding, new report shows

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Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

A large majority of the population are in support of increasing funds for mental health services, a new report has shown.

The report, carried out by Mental Health Reform, found that that the public are more willing to invest in children’s mental health services than in programmes for children with scoliosis and the respite care programme.

When asked how they would divide €100 between the three care programmes, 33pc allocated at least €50 to the mental health programme.

The average spending allocation identified for the mental health programme was €36 out of €100, compared with €34 for the respite care programme and €30 for the scoliosis programme.

Dr Shari McDaid, director of Mental Health Reform, said that many of the respondents feel that there should be more funding allocated to mental health services.

“There wasn’t a gigantic difference but it was showing that people prioritise mental health very highly in this country,” Dr McDaid said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Dr Shari McDaid
Dr Shari McDaid

“Generally speaking, the findings were very consistent. We did find that younger people aged 18-24 and also older people over 55 both were more likely to prioritise or give more funding to mental health. 

“But really across the spectrum everybody is saying that mental health should be prioritised and also that the biggest reason for that was they feel there is under-investment in our mental health services.”

Dr McDaid added that while the organisation recognises the “difficult choices” the Government has to make, they believe that increased funding to mental health services will reduce costs in the rest of the health sector.

“We understand that these are difficult choices for our [ministers] to have to make, but I think we need to recognise that investing in mental health helps a lot of other areas in the health service,” she said.

“The fact is if we invested in our mental health service it would reduce costs throughout the health service, because a lot of other conditions are exacerbated by not having the mental health care in place. 

“And that’s the situation we have now, where we are pouring millions into our health service, where if we provide that mental health care, some of those other costs would reduce.”

She explained that services in Europe are “better performing” than here in Ireland, and that they would like to see Ireland match them in the future.

“We’re certainly lagging behind those countries that have better performing mental health services. Those countries like our nearest country the UK which has a whole range of services that we don’t even provide adequately in this country,” she said.

“That have crisis services, outreach services for homeless people, that have much greater access to free counselling in psychotherapy and primary care. We have much lower provision for all of those areas. 

“We are investing less proportionally in our health budget by about half their health provision, for them it's about 12pc of their budget, for us it’s 6pc.”

In May 2018, over 6,500 children and young people were waiting for their first psychological appointment, the organisation says.

They are calling for €105 million to be allocated to mental health services in this year's Budget, which will be announced next Tuesday.

“If the Government wants to find the funding they can, and recognise it’s a good investment in our health system overall,” Dr McDaid said.

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