Emergency measures needed to tackle Covid impact on mental health services

Emergency measures needed to tackle Covid impact on mental health services

Library Picture: Pexels

Emergency measures are needed to tackle the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the country's mental health services, an Oireachtas report has found.

The sub-committee on mental health has launched its interim report on how services have been hit by the pandemic. It says the Department of Health should introduce emergency measures to meet the current surge in need for mental health supports and services, including a fit-for-purpose 24-hour support team for suicide prevention.

Other recommendations include the need for:

  • State services to develop a plan that ensures availability of, and access to, critical mental health services as a matter of priority;
  • an increase in State funding supports, management, and multidisciplinary planning for mental health services to ensure timely, appropriate, and accessible services are provided;
  • an increase in resources for specialist mental health services for youth services, international protection applicants, and Travellers;
  • a national health campaign highlighting addiction, in addition to the development of a dual diagnosis service that includes joint care plans between addiction services and mental health services;
  • State services to focus on connectedness, to support community actions that strengthen social cohesion and reduce loneliness.

Independent senator Frances Black at Leinster House, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Independent senator Frances Black at Leinster House, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

Independent senator Frances Black, cathaoirleach of the sub-committee, said the report shows an increase in demand which must be met with an increase in capacity.

Covid-19 and the public health restrictions that have been implemented in response to the pandemic have been linked to an increase in mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, and an increase in demand for mental health services," she said. 

"The voices of people working on the ground, at a local level, in both urban and rural communities nationwide, trying to meet that demand, need to be heard and listened to, and their concerns regarding mental health support services need to be addressed."

She said that mental health services were already lacking pre-pandemic, but the witness testimony — which came from across society — underlined the need for more access to services.

Mental health support services were always somewhat lacking, but it is clear that urgent action is needed now more than ever to address that void," she said.

"Long waiting lists to access care need to be urgently addressed. 

"Free universal access to counselling is one way of removing barriers to people getting the appropriate help they need when they need it.”

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