News & Media

Budget 2022 must prioritise mental health services

11 September 2021

Statement by Senator Annie Hoey
Spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science

Labour Senator Annie Hoey has said called on Government to prioritise mental health in Budget 2022 and properly resource the national mental health policy. Speaking today, Senator Hoey said the Government needs to prioritise community mental health services in the forthcoming budget to stop people falling through the cracks and into the wrong services.

Senator Hoey said:

“The pandemic forced us to stay apart and while it is unsurprising to see an increase in people reporting isolation and loneliness, it is a totally failure of this Government to better equip public health resources to manage the crisis in mental health in this country. Budget 2022 is an opportunity for Government to ensure that the national mental health policy is fully resourced. 

“We know that over 90% of mental health needs can be successfully treated within a primary care setting, with less than 10% being referred to specialist community based mental health teams. Assessment, prevention and early-intervention is critical to alleviating health issues and taken pressure off stretched CAMHS services. Last year in Labour’s alternative Budget we proposed over €700 million in new health spending, including €80 million in mental health funding. This funding would be vital to deal with the knock-on effects of the pandemic in terms of mental health, particularly for those who are struggling with the social impact of the pandemic.

“Ireland currently has one of the highest rates of mental health illness in Europe. One in four people in our society will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. Mental health issues have becoming increasingly prevalent amongst our youth with the increased pressures – both online and offline – that they face.

"This has been particularly stark in the tsunami of referrals for treatment for eating disorders, which started long before the pandemic, but has exploded throughout the past 18 months. As a member of the Health Committee, I requested that the care for those suffering from eating disorders be prioritised back in May of this year. There has been much talk about regional beds and increasing resources throughout the country, but the time for talk is over.

"Budget 2022 is an opportunity for Government to ensure that the clinical programme for eating disorders is fully implemented. This would enclude getting rid of the post code lottery for services and move to a hub and spoke model of service delivery by resourcing main hubs with the expertise required to treat people in the community.

"People suffering from eating disorders require specialist care for their mental and physical health. They need to be treated within the community and empowered to stay within their own lives. That way, people can be assessed quicker, treated quicker in their community and discharged quicker. 

“We know that Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our collective mental health with so many people struggling with anxiety, loss and fear. It is essential that Government is ambitious for mental health services that are properly resources and staffed. The State’s failure to prioritise mental health can only be covered up by charities like the Samaritans for so long.”