Cuts To Mental Health are a Literal Death Sentence

We recently elected a new government, not that you could tell it in looking at our currently defunct parliament. In the 36 days since our votes were counted and those who were chosen by the people were officially elected, we have sat around watching them squabble like children, unable to pick their teams in a way that made anyone happy. They’ve racked up a whopping 1.75 million (and growing) wages bill – and that’s just the TDs – for their playground politics. Keep that figure in mind when you see the next one I give you – a proposed cut of 12 million from the 35 million budget ring fenced for mental health services. In our already fractured mental health system, the government is prioritising other things and taking funds away from helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I’m angry.

Cuts To Mental Health Funding Are A Literal Death Sentence

 

I’ve documented (at length at this point) my mental health journey. I’ve been extremely lucky, and I completely acknowledge that, to be able to avail of psychiatric care privately, as well as having a very experienced and understanding GP who has been an absolute godsend. I’ve also been lucky, and I never thought I’d say that, to have this not be my first rodeo. I was first diagnosed and treated for depression in early 2010 so I have the experience of what is involved in the treatment and the ups and downs. Not everyone is that lucky. Not everyone can afford what is a rather large bill, or has health insurance which can cover it. Not everyone has an understanding GP who can put them in touch with the right services in a timely manner. The waiting lists in this country for mental health services are disgraceful. There really isn’t another word to describe it.

Recently, an incredible Irish blogger who writes all about her mental health journey, Fiona from Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers, was faced with the reality that the treatment which she had been promised was not going to happen. As someone who suffers with borderline personality disorder, she had been told that DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) was the best way forward for her treatment. She had been waiting for 8 months, patiently, trying everything else to get her through, and was presented with the news that it wouldn’t be happening, the resources weren’t available. She understood that this wasn’t an option for her – that this treatment had to happen – and so made the very brave act of asking for help from the public, from her friends, family, readers and others who cared to fund this treatment privately. This kind of therapy is weekly and can cost up to €120 a session – not exactly pocket change, especially for someone who is unable to work. Thankfully, faith in humanity was restored when the full amount required for the treatment for a year was raised in 24 hours. But it shouldn’t have to be this way. This should never have happened. Our government, our health service, has failed and has left it to people to ask, beg, put themselves out there and make it happen. This story has worked out well, but I do wonder just how many others looking on, who may be in the same shoes, have just said “No, I can’t do that, I’ll have to go without”. Mental health stigma in this country, while reducing over the last few years, is still alive and well, and for a lot of people putting themselves out there, like Fiona so bravely did, is simply not an option. Instead, they continue to suffer in silence and wait for the state to come to their senses.

Even when the system is “working”, as it currently stands, it is flawed in so many ways. The waiting lists for treatment in mental illness in this country don’t even bear thinking about. People who go to A&E departments asking for help, admitting they cannot cope, are sent home with letters for their GP instead of being given the help they so badly need. In programmes that are available for talk therapies, there are a very limited amount of appointments given. In some cases (like the Counselling in Primary Care initiative run by the HSE) just eight appointments. This can leave patients in an even more fragile state as the can of worms has been opened and they are left without a lifering. This, in my opinion, is negligent care by our health service.

We have seen such horror stories over the last few months in our mental health system, that we cannot deny its flaws any longer. Our economy is growing, the recovery is coming along, according to the big wigs in government trying to get back into the power seat, but our people are being allowed to suffer and die without a thought. Or rather, with the main thought being “What else can we pump that money into?”. Psychiatric care is not considered a priority by this government. The initial 35 million ring fenced allocation was fought for in the budget, as initially they did not care to allocate anything. Now it’s being torn apart and all that it will cause is more hardship. We’ve seen cases like that of Caoilte O Broin, whose dual diagnosis of addiction and mental health issues affected his eligibility to be treated, resulting in his untimely, and utterly preventable, death. Like that of Dan Clear, a 17 year old young man, who told psychiatrists that the treatment he was receiving was actually making things worse, whose words were not listened to and who met his tragic end shortly afterwards. There are numerous other cases numerous failings in our health service, and these are not being addressed. They are being pushed under the rug so that the image of our great recovery can be the forerunner in this current political climate.

We all know the health service as a whole is a shambles. We know that conditions for those who work in it are poor and this leads to mistakes and negligence in care. The numbers of patients on trollies are climbing and there are only limited funds available. However, we can not allow the “Invisible illnesses” to lose their traction and lose the supports they so desperately need in an attempt to balance up one of the more visible people-pleasing governmental departments.

Una Mullally, the other day, wrote an excellent piece which spoke to me about the purpose of health insurance. While it does definitely cover an awful lot of crippling costs on sick people, the main benefit of it, in this country, is the ability to skip the queue, to be seen faster, to be taken seriously in a much more realistic time frame. This is an absolute undeniable failing of our current health service and is very much so evident in our mental health system. My experience of psychiatric care in this country is exemplary – because I was able to pay. I could accept my GP’s recommendation to see a private psychiatrist, close to my home, and was seen within two weeks, while being under excellent care from my primary physician. In college, when I was first diagnosed, I had a similar experience. The incredible staff of University College Cork’s Student Health Centre definitely have an all-in service that ensures the best possible care for their growing student population. As third level education becomes less affordable, and our employment crisis continues, those who cannot avail of either private health insurance or these kind of services increases. Those who need the help are left to wait and hope. Hope for a change. Hope our country starts to put their needs before the needs and whims of a government who frankly couldn’t organise a football team for the Under 10s team at the moment. Our general practice system isn’t able to keep up with the demand. A lot of services for mental health are now community based, charity led – volunteers who have stepped up unable to watch this crisis develop further without doing their part. It is heartening to see our society step up – but it is allowing the government to close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears and ignore the crisis unfolding before it.

So, future government, whoever you are, whether you manage to get it together this week, or send us back out to the polls, I ask you to think about it. If it was your child, your parent, your sibling, your best friend. Do you want to face them and tell them that the service they so badly need is just not high enough a priority for you? It is easy for those in these high paid positions to be flippant about the needs of those in less-well-off economic circumstances – unless you have experienced it, it can be difficult to stand in those shoes. All we ask is for some common sense and some eyes to be opened about the current situation.

Do not cut mental health funding. Please.  We are barely hanging on as it is with our limited resources.

 

**********

A list of HSE Mental Health Services can be found here.

Pieta House deals with suicide and depression.

The Samaritans can be reached 24 hours a day at 116 123.

Your Mental Health.ie

Share Button
Follow:

9 Comments

  1. April 20, 2016 / 6:32 pm

    Every time I read articles like this about government overseas, I learn more about how much in common the U.S government has with other governments. Are all of our leaders really this corrupt? Throughout the world? I truly don’t understand the utter lack of compassion our leaders have for their own people and all because of money, or rather, greed! I was diagnosed with PTSD 10 years ago and was fortunate enough that my health insurance, and my state, supported my therapy. I had a wonderful therapist too! she was awesome and because of her and all of the work she and I put in to help me heal, I am well for the first time in my life. I still suffer bouts of depression here and there and I still get triggered once in a great while but I now have skills and the know-how to deal with these things as they come and know how to prevent my depression from getting too bad that I can’t cope but I also know too many people in my country who are still suffering because there isn’t a federal mandate to require better mental health services on a state scale. Over here, the states run their own programs so that the federal government doesn’t have to fund every thing but it’s getting to the point over here where it seems that the federal government needs to intervene because lack of mental health services has become a public safety issue. Our people are screaming over here to be heard and our leaders are choosing to stick their heads in the sand while they continue to take our money. It’s a huge problem. This American stands with you in this anger! This is completely preventable and our governments are choosing not to act. This is a great post! I found this on #bloggerclubuk Facebook group

  2. April 20, 2016 / 8:21 pm

    It is depressing to read about cuts for mental health funding – regardless of where. Ireland is so under resourced too. I despair at times

  3. April 20, 2016 / 8:35 pm

    Whenever a new government is elected, they always seem to get something wrong, they never look at the wider picture. I find incredibly frustrating that they can make these changes, I know they were elected but do they really have the right. x

  4. April 20, 2016 / 8:59 pm

    It is heartbreaking what we hear in the news. In Cornwall alone, many kids who suffer from mental illness find themselves travelling in other parts of the UK just to get help. Parents actually have to travel miles and miles just to see their kids. What will happen if more of their funding gets cut? I shudder at the thought. If only the government would listen more, sadly they don’t seem to care enough 🙁

  5. April 20, 2016 / 9:54 pm

    To be fair, it’s hard to have a gov that gets everything right to everyone’s liking but this is so true. It’s something we just cannot skimp on. I’ve had close people in my life who have been affected by depression one way or another so I fully agree with you on this. Great post.

    Oliver • http://suedeandsymphony.com

  6. April 21, 2016 / 4:33 am

    I think it’s important to note that we, as a nation, voted this government in. Well, the small percentage of those who bothered to turn out at the polls in the last election did, and now we’re all suffering the consequences in one form or another. It’s a sad state of affairs.

  7. April 26, 2016 / 9:16 am

    such a fantastic piece lisa… and you can tell this issue is very close to your heart.. i had my own struggles.. something im not ready to open up about and i have to say the services in my area were so good.. esp the mental health nurse dealing with me.. and still checks in with me now.. 2 years later… but completey understand where your coming from x

  8. May 2, 2016 / 8:28 am

    It’s awful. My son hasn’t had an appointment with the mental health services in a year. The last appointment he had lasted 8 minutes.
    The government wonder why people are taking their own lives. There just isn’t any help for them.

    • admin
      May 2, 2016 / 9:03 am

      8 minutes, that’s a shambles. There simply isn’t enough being done. I hope your son gets seen soon, and that you’re all keeping well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.