Jim Daly, the minister of state for mental health, has vowed to plug gaps in the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) as he launched a suicide prevention plan for Cork.
The localised version of the national Connecting for Life strategy aims to reduce suicide rates in the city and county by 10% by 2020.
Prepared over the last 18 months, it brings together for the first time the various community groups working in suicide prevention to work in a co-ordinated way.
It has seven strategic goals and more than 72 specific action points which aim to improve understanding of and reduce stigma around mental health issues; to support local communities’ capacity to respond to and prevent suicidal behaviour; to improve mental health in specific priority groups such as the Traveller and LGBT communities, the homeless, and young people; to restrict access to means of suicide; to improve surveillance and data; and to improve access to high-quality services.
Mr Daly praised the grass-roots approach but said that addressing gaps in the CAMHS service was his “number one priority”.
“What I have said to my officials is that I want to meet as many of the CAMHS teams, practitioners, service users, and HSE management as possible to see can I identify a way forward,” he said.
“For too long we have heard the line that recruitment is the blockage — that there is an international shortage of psychiatrists. That’s all well and good. But there is another way of doing what we do.
“I’m going to commit to changing that, to commit every fibre of my being while I am minister to ensuring that I get on top of the issue of CAMHS, and lessen those delays, and make it easier for people to access that vital service.”
Martin Ryan, the HSE’s suicide resource prevention officer for Cork City and county, described the plan as “robust and practical”.
“It’s about sending out the message of hope — that services are there, that recovery is possible, and that supports are available for people in distress and for those who just want to talk,” he said.
Sinead Glennon, head of mental health services with the HSE’s Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation, said responding to suicide is a community issue and the authorities need the entire community involved.
“That’s why the plan itself was developed in a collaborative way, with as much consultation as possible,” she said.
Mr Daly defended the amount of money being allocated to mental health but said he will push for more in the budget.
“People seem to think it’s the poor relation, but it’s not,” he said. “We’re spending €850m a year on mental health. Funding for the National Suicide Prevention Office has gone from €4m to €12m in the last three years.
“It’s not all about resources;, equally as important is how we do what we do.
“It’s going to be difficult to get the balance right. There are competing demands for early intervention, for awareness, for supporting people, but also demands for services at an acute level, and it’s to get the balance right. And that’s the job that I, as a policymaker, will have to do between now and the budget.”
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