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Dear Sir... Readers' Views (05/08/16)

Your letters, your views...

Investment in mental health

Minister with responsibility for mental health Helen McEntee TD states that jailing people with mental health issues is wrong (Irish Examiner, August 2).

Of course the minister should have added that spending only 6% of the health budget on mental health services in Ireland is equally wrong when international norms within OECD countries have a spending level on mental health services of at least double that amount.

Interestingly the correlation between closing of mental health facilities and the increase in prison population of a country has been known for years as “Penrose’s Law”. This law states that as the number of psychiatric inpatients declines, the number of prisoners increases.

In 1939, Lionel Penrose (British psychiatrist) published a cross-sectional study from 18 European countries, including the Nordic region, in which he demonstrated an inverse relationship between the number of mental hospital beds and the number of prisoners. He also found strong negative correlations between the number of mental hospital beds and the number of deaths attributed to murder. He argued that by increasing the number of mental institution beds, a society could reduce serious crimes and imprisonment rates. Over time Penrose’s Law has proven to be remarkably resilient and accurate.

In Ireland studied data from the annual census of psychiatric inpatients and prison statistics has indicated that between 1963 and 2003, the number of psychiatric inpatients decreased by 81.5% (a five-fold decrease) and the average number of prisoners increased by 494.8% (a five-fold increase). The absolute decline in psychiatric inpatients greatly exceeded the increase in prisoners. This net de-institutionalisation appears particularly marked in Ireland compared to England and this may relate to differences in prison, health, or re-institutionalisation practices.

Of course this is not to say that persons with mental health issues are more violent or criminal by nature. What it does indicate is that persons with mental health issues that do not receive the supports and treatments for their mental health issues are more likely to end up in prison, homeless, detached from the mainstream of society and outsiders.

As the minister correctly pointed out, the financial cost of maintaining a person in prison is far greater that maintaining a person within the mental health service and it is also more humane.

Cormac Williams

Psychiatric Nurses Association
Kerry

Maynooth mired in years of controversy

Trainee priests are no longer to be sent to St Patrick’s College Maynooth by Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland (Irish Examiner, August 1).

St Patrick’s is a small institution with an ancient history but declining student numbers. It has been mired in recurring controversy since the early 1980s when Rev Dr Gerard McGinnity PP, then a senior staff member, brought his concerns about College governance and those of aggrieved seminarians to the attention of the Trustees and into the public domain. The opinion of the Trustees at the time was articulated by Cardinal Tomás Ó’Fiaich who advised Rev Dr McGinnity, when both were visiting Rome: “the bishops are gunning for you Gerry”. The priest promptly lost his job and was isolated [although] Rev Dr McGinnity and the complaining seminarians were eventually vindicated.

The Holy See published an evaluation of St Patrick’s in 2014 which reflected the views of nine faculty members: it criticised the college trustees, all bishops, for their “perceived disengagement from and apparent disinterest regarding the University’s mission”.

The same body of trustees recently granted the president of St Patrick’s sabbatical leave until 2017 coinciding with the remainder of his term as president but he is apparently to continue to exercise authority many of his presidential duties during his sabbatical leave.

State funds for St Patrick’s flow through NUI Maynooth whose current strategic compact with the Higher Education Authority includes attracting study-abroad students into programmes provided jointly by NUI Maynooth and St Patrick’s College so as to justify state funding of the smaller institution.

The decisiveness of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is compelling, proactive, plausible, and very consistent with his robust style when dealing with clerical sexual abuse issues. He is clearly exasperated and has lost confidence in the fitness-for-purpose of St Patrick’s and the governing competence, leadership and credibility of its trustees.

It is time for the Primate of All Ireland and the trustees to publicly account for their stewardship of this Institution; to account for the threat to its reputation and to be candid with the public about why this small college continues to be consistently mired in controversy throughout the tenure of its three most recent college presidents.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary
Co Dublin

Louise O’Neill and a need for loving

As I read Louise O’Neill’s piece in your Weekend magazine on Saturday (Irish Examiner, July 30), I found myself really feeling for her. There she revealed her heartbreak due to a relationship break-up. It emphasises just how much life is about relationships and it also puts in context her two pieces in the previous week’s Weekend magazine (July 23) where she wrote in such a cavalier way about abortion.

Both science and personal experience tell us that we are conceived in a relationship, hormonal at first, it quickly becomes emotionally binding with all who come to know of us. Breaking that relationship before birth is life shattering, not only does a baby die, but something of our humanity too.

This is so strikingly true in the cases where the baby has a very challenging condition — fatal foetal abnormality. In every in-depth public interview the mother — even after years of counselling — will say that she made the most difficult decision of her life, the night she decided to go to England to “terminate” her child’s life.

The truth is that she made the most disastrous decision of her life, one that will impact upon the rest of her life and no amount of counselling can turn the clock back. Such couples are stuck at the time of that awful decision, unable to move on. Ignoring the enormity of what has happened they are typically invited by the media to divert their focus onto incidentals such as the trip involved or the way in which their dead baby was disrespected in death as much as in life.

The contrast with those who have loved their baby to the end, not pre-empting nature, could not be greater. These parents look back upon their experience as one where they grew in empathy, became less perfectionist with their other children, and no matter how short their child’s life was, they are definite that their baby’s life mattered; it is as if their baby achieved what he or she was meant to achieve in the world. This is equally true for those who are religious and for those for whom religion plays no part in their lives.

Finally Louise tells us how as a child she unthinkingly grew up identifying herself as a Catholic. But being Catholic is not something we merely go along with, rather it is only when our hearts are broken that we can become Catholic. As an alcoholic will only call upon his higher power (God) when he has incontrovertible proof that he can no longer rely upon himself, so too, it is only when we are utterly convinced of our own need for Christ that we are open and are ready to receiving Him. There are no passive Catholics, only ones born out of desperation. Love and be loved. Rise and shine Louise.

Gearóid Duffy

Lee Road
Cork

‘Primal need’ for sex vs baby’s rights

Ann Fetton’s emotive and misinformed contribution (August 3) certainly does nothing for the well co-ordinated campaign to terminate the lives of unwanted babies before they are born. Her passionate determination to terminate these lives has blinded her thought process.

How any woman can say that a baby moving and kicking in its mother’s womb, and clearly visible in modern scanning processes, is “no child” and “no baby” is beyond human comprehension. But, it illustrates the tactics being used to try to convince citizens that terminating life is just an innocent act of no concern. An innocent baby

that is helpless to protect itself does not count at all while its parents enjoy their “primal need for sex” according to Ms Fetton. It’s amazing how many women proudly talk about their pregnancy on social media with some showing scans of the baby in their womb.

Ms Fetton chooses to ignore the reality of live babies left to die in buckets or basins in abortion clinics, or have their organs sold for profit as was discovered within Planned Parenthood International in the USA last year. In Canada, 622 infants were born alive

after failed abortions between 2000 and 2011. The solution to dispose of such unwanted babies is very simple … stop their hearts by lethal injection or let them die naturally. Similar cases have been reported in the UK, Norway, and Italy.

How lethal injection sits with doctors and nurses who are supposed to protect life wherever possible illustrates the diminishing of the most basic human right of all. Ms Fetton obviously believes that the “primal need for sex” by a baby’s parents trumps that human right. The right to life is the human rights issue of our time, especially here in Ireland. The silent majority need to wake up to this urgently.

Tony Walsh

Summerhill Rise
Tramore
Waterford

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