Poor score for Ireland in mental health index
IRELAND is only ranked 14th in a league table of 30 countries for its efforts to help people with mental illness transfer from institutional care to live independent lives.
The report from the Economist Intelligence Unit has said that funding cuts have contributed to delaying the progress that should have been made at this stage in providing the supports for people suffering from mental illness to be integrated into the community.
The Mental Health Integration Index - commissioned by the pharmaceutical company Janssen - is the first to examine the progress of European countries in helping people in managing their illness to recovery.
It looked at specific areas such as providing a stable home and family, access to health services, improving work and education opportunities, reducing stigma and increasing awareness.
It said the information on Ireland shows that austerity measures cut total funding of mental health services from €937m in 2006 to €733m in 2013. Another €25m was invested in hiring extra staff.
However, overall mental health spending as a percentage of the total health budget dropped from 7.2pc to 5.3pc over the same years.
The progress has also been hampered by what it termed "health service upheaval".
Prof Brendan Kelly, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University College Dublin and the Mater Hospital, pointed out that "real investment marks the difference between actual commitment and mere aspiration in the index.
"Country scores in the index correlate strongly with proportion of GDP spent on mental health. Addressing the burden of mental illness requires incurring up-front costs.
"Consistency over time pays off, and consistent progress on implementation would enhance services in Ireland."
It means that Germany is top of the league, with the UK and Scandinavian countries also scoring highly.
Ireland's performance was described as "slightly above average" with good policy but a poor record of putting it into action.
He added: "A cultural shift is under way in Ireland. We are moving more towards a community-based model of care for people with mental illness that promotes an ethos of recovery."
John Saunders, chairman of the Mental Health Commission, said the fall in spending had important implications for staffing and this was particularly badly felt in an area of the service which is labour intensive.
The index pointed to some positives including the recent appointment of a National Director of Mental Health as well as the National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability.