NO extra money will be provided next year to stem the growing numbers of suicides, Minister John Moloney confirmed yesterday.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s World Suicide Prevention Day, the Minister with Responsibility for Mental Health admitted funding in the area is likely to be capped at €5 million.
Funding in the area of mental health and suicide prevention has been consistently criticised by campaigners, while provisional figures released earlier this year by the Central Statistics Office showed a rise in suicide deaths last year to 524.
Mr Moloney said efforts would be made to optimise the budgets available and that a series of See Change “town hall meetings” aimed at lifting the stigma attached to suicide and mental health will begin in Ennis next Tuesday and last into next year. But on the issue of funding, he said: “I want to say at the outset that I don’t see any new money coming into the department.
“I am looking at the budgets in my department, and I am saying I am not going to sort every problem out with mental health so I have to begin with the priority areas.” He said areas such as suicide in the Traveller community had to be looked at and there needed to be an increased focus on child and adolescent mental health services.
The minister said he wrote to new chief executive officer of the HSE Cathal Magee to request a meeting to discuss funding of mental health services, which he conceded had been a “cinderella service”.
He said he also addressed an Irish veterinary group last month where suicide was “quite predominant” and it showed that meetings with follow-up forums had a positive effect. But he said an out-of-hours service was still badly needed.
“I wish I could say that we are going to get further funding [but] the budget for health this year will be cut... by €600m.
“It is clearly my priority to retain everything I have but quite obviously, if suicide numbers are increasing, if the evidence out there is that men particularly are reluctant to speak about their mental health the very obvious fact for me has to be that we must prioritise the funding where it is going to have the very, very best result and that must be out-of-hours intervention and it must be also early intervention.”
He said work needed to be done to lift the stigma attached to mental health issues, particularly among men, and that there was a need to “prioritise funding in early intervention”.
“I have made proposals to Government to prioritise funding in the forthcoming budget so that we can provide for early intervention,” he said.
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