Ireland’s Mental Health Services ‘Violating Human Rights’

The Irish Government’s current mental-health services violate the human rights of people with intellectual disabilities, the Opposition part have claimed. Fine Gael and Labour have pledged to create modern, world-class services for the mentally ill as they launched pre-election proposals on the issue. Fine Gael’s deputy health spokesman Dan Neville said: “Our psychiatric service is out of step with international best practice and falls far short of full respect for the human rights of people with mental illness.”

Labour’s health spokesperson Liz McManus said Fine Gael and Labour will build and foster positive mental health across the community and provide accessible, community-based, fully staffed, multi-disciplined services for people with mental illness. “The provision of these services will be brought at least on par with the general health services both in hospital and community services,” she said.

Ms McManus said that one in four Irish people suffer from some form of mental illness during their lifetime but the sector doesn’t get the same level of priority as general healthcare. “Today we pledge to deliver a well-resourced mental-health programme that will be directed, as far as possible, towards recovery, which involves a way of living a satisfying, hopeful and productive life even within the limitations caused by illness,” she added.

The opposition parties said the Government must be held accountable for slashing the proportion of the health budget allocated to mental health from 11% in 1997 to 7% in 2006.

The alternative government’s proposals also deal with the mental-health needs of the elderly, people with intellectual disabilities, the homeless and prisoners.

Fine Gael’s health spokesman Dr Liam Twomey said the opposition alliance will also present programmes aimed at the prevention of suicide and suicidal behaviour. An extra €10m will be allocated to the National Suicide Prevention Office in the first year, rising to €20m over five years.  “The lack of attention given to the mental health of children and adolescents can have lifelong consequences,” Dr Twomey said.

He proposed increasing specialist outpatient teams by 50% and a Youth Mental Health initiative aimed at teachers and other adults who have frequent contact with young people.

Labour’s spokesperson on children, Senator Kathleen O’Meara, commented: “Child and adolescent psychiatric services account for only five to 10% of spending on mental-health services, while serving 22.68% of the population. This under-investment has resulted in a child and adolescent service which is at best sporadic and at worst non-existent.”

The senator said anorexia and other eating disorders were now major health issues for many young people. “At present there are only three beds in specialist eating-disorder services. We will increase this to the recommended 24, and expand services in hospitals and within outpatient teams. The mental-health needs of our children and adolescents are given the attention they deserve in this far-reaching and far-sighted policy.”