Independent TD Mattie McGrath has added his voice of support to efforts being made to highlight World Suicide Prevention Day. Deputy McGrath was speaking after figures released by St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services revealed that there are still significant levels of public stigma associated with mental health issues in this Country:
“Regardless of the high numbers of suicide that we unfortunately witness in our communities every year, and the outpouring of sympathy for the families who have to endure the after effects of suicide, there is still a stubbornly resistant prejudice surrounding the underlying causes of such events.
Clearly we need to do more in terms of effectively communicating the idea that mental health issues and the challenges associated with them are in the main nothing which should generate fear or prejudice. While there is of course massive levels of public awareness around the issue of suicide, particularly over the course of the last year, that does not seem to be translating into a reduction in public stigma.
That is something which is a serious challenge not only to mental health professionals but also to legislators like myself who are tasked with framing or suggesting appropriate responses at a national and local level.
To that end the implementation of the Governments mental health policy document, A Vision for Change, which required the amalgamation of South Tipperary and Carlow-Kilkenny into one catchment area for mental health services needs to be revised. The inpatient bed requirement for the combined population of approximately 205,000 came out at a meagre 34 beds and which are to be provided in St. Luke’s General Hospital, Kilkenny.
I am saying that those bed numbers are insufficient and that combined with the massive cuts in the mental health budget over the last number of years, all the current Government talk about support for Suicide Prevention and the avoidance of mental health stigma comes across as little more than empty rhetoric.
We need appropriate and targeted funding for building and fostering positive mental health across the entire community and for providing accessible, community-based, specialist services for people with mental health problems.
If we can achieve that then we will have something to be proud of in terms of a proactive response to what is clearly a national mental health crisis,” concluded Deputy McGrath.