Sub-Committee on Mental Health launches Interim Report on Covid-19 and its effect on Mental Health Services in the Community

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THE Sub-Committee on Mental Health has launched its Interim Report on Covid-19 and its effect on Mental Health Services in the Community.

The Sub-Committee report calls on the Department of Health to introduce emergency measures to meet the current surge in need for mental health supports and services including a fit for purpose suicide prevention 24-hour support team.

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The report also calls for a retrospective review of the mental health impact of Covid-19 restrictions on palliative care, end-of-life supports and funerals, as evidence emerges of the suffering and longer-term effects on mental health that arise as a result of not being able to grieve properly.

The calls are among the ten recommendations made in the Interim report to respond to the pandemic linked increase in mental health service demand.

Cathaoirleach of the Sub-Committee Senator Frances Black said: “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.

“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.

“Today’s interim report makes recommendations in response to those concerned voices, from groups working in the area of mental health supports and information about the services provided by them to vulnerable communities, and in particular the extra challenges they face as a result of Covid-19.”

Senator Black added: “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. 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.”

Other recommendations made in the report include the need to ensure the following:

  • State services 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 that timely, appropriate and accessible services are provided for the population
  • An increase in resources for specialist mental health services for youth services, international protection applicants and Travellers.
  • A national health campaign highlighting addiction is implemented in addition to the development of a comprehensive dual diagnosis service that includes joint care plans between addiction services and mental health services
  • State services focus on connectedness, to support community actions that strengthen social cohesion and reduce loneliness.
  • State agencies need to effectively engage with and respect the work of organised community groups.

Senator Black said: “I would like thank all of the witnesses who appeared before the Sub-Committee in private session for their testimonies and for their on-the-ground experience, which gave the Members of the Sub-Committee a good sense of the difficult but important work which was done during the pandemic, and which continues to be done on a daily basis, often with limited resources.”