Sunday 22 April 2018

Poor Dáil attendance at mental health debate sparks outrage

A screenshot of Tuesday's mental health debate posted by the Rubberbandits/Facebook
A screenshot of Tuesday's mental health debate posted by the Rubberbandits/Facebook

Meadhbh McGrath

Thousands of people took to Twitter last night to express their shock and anger at claims that Tuesday’s Dáil debate on mental health was attended by only 10 out of 158 TDs.

Although the exact figure was later disputed, images began to circulate during the debate of an almost empty Dáil chamber.

The Rubberbandits posted a screenshot showing just seven deputies at the debate.

“Here’s a photo of how many politicians turned up to speak about mental health in the Dáil today. There's ten people a week dying by suicide,” they wrote.

Musician and TV personality Niall Breslin urged his Twitter followers to contact their local TD and ask if they had attended the debate.

“This is the Dáil right now for mental health debate. Remember this view if we have another election,” he said.

Former Cork hurler and mental health activist Conor Cusack also shared a photo of the chamber, with the caption: “Today’s empty Dáil giving powerful visibility to immense stigma still engulfing this aspect of the human experience.”

He will be one of the speakers joining the Union of Students in Ireland the Mental Health Reform for a demonstration tomorrow outside the Dáil.

Yesterday’s statements on mental health service took place following the announcement of cuts to this year’s mental health budget, as the government said it would be diverting €12m to other areas of the health service.

Outraged by the cuts and the seemingly low Dáil attendance, social media users used the hashtag ‘IAmAReason’ to vent their frustration and call for the restoration of funding for mental health services.

According to Aware, more than one in 10 Irish people are affected by depression, and Pieta House reported that 10 people die by suicide every week in Ireland.

The suicide rates among young men and women in Ireland are remarkably high when compared to international figures.

A report from the Children’s Rights Alliance found that we had the highest rate of female youth suicides and the second highest rate of male youth suicides in the EU between 2009 and 2011.

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