On the evening of Tuesday the 15th of November myself and some mental health campaigners from The Irish Second-Level Students Union and other groups such as Mental Health Reform attended a debate in Leinster house .To get into leinster house we had to be invited and we were invited by mental helath reform to be some of the names on ther list of people who could enter and watch the debate from the public gallery. Once we got by the front gates we headed into leinster house where we were stopped at the security desk to be given our public gallery access badges. We were then brought in to the public gallery by one of the ushers this is where we would spend the next two hours looking down on the debate happening.
The motion was brought forward by Fianna Fáil’s James Browne TD who is the party spokesperson for the mental health. The debate was about how the government had only given 15 million for 2017 for mental health developments in our health system in the last budget. But only a couple of months previous in July 2016 the estimate from the Department of Health indicated that the required resources needed to fully implement A Vision For Change are 177.3 million or 35.4 million per annum over five years. As you can see a significant increase in mental health spending is needed to succeed in this 5 year plan to implement a Vision For Change.
Your probably thinking “What is A Vision for Change?”. A Vision for Change is a model of what the mental health service should be like in Ireland. Its a framework of positive mental health across the country and giving accessible, community- based, specialist services for people with mental health issues.
The debate began at 8 o’clock with deputy Browne giving his statement about the motion. Fianna Fáil is calling on the Government to set out how exactly it intends on achieving full implementation of the country’s mental health strategy. “We have made it clear that mental health spending can’t be put on the back burner, so it’s time for Fine Gael and their Independent colleagues to spell out their plan for mental health services.”.
It was then the turn of Minister of State for Mental Health and older people Fine Gael’s Deputy Helen McEntee to have her say. She began to say how she and her party did not oppose this motion. She had to defend herself and her party and she did this by talking of how €900 million would be spent overall in the mental health sector this year she also encouraged her colleagues in the Dail to go visit the central mental hospital which her party had been helping. She had a very hard job trying to defend herself and to do this she had to try make known to her fellow TD’s the work her and her party had done for mental health in this country.
After this it was time for TD’s present from parties such as Sinn Fein, Green party,Labour, Social democrats,Anti austerity and Independents to have their say on the motion. They all had the same sort of points along the lines of how mental health is a considerable factor in the number of deaths in our country and that an Accident and Emergency room is no place for someone with a mental illness to attend.
Deputy Browne concluded the debate saying ”I am glad the Government will not oppose this motion. The motion seeks an urgent review of the budget allocation. It seeks a multi-annual plan to set out how A Vision for change will be set.”
“We do not want to be back here again. The Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, has our support but she needs to ensure that the people needing the services are also getting support.” Said Deputy Browne.
At the end of it I felt that this funding without a doubt is despertaley needed in our country so we can catch up with the reforms set out in A Vision For Change. I also think we have a government who are trying their best to make mental health one of their main priorities and are doing all in their power to get this issue sorted. We can not let this matter get debated again and again, peoples’ lives are at stake and lives have already been lost and without this desperately needed funding we can not help our country tackle mental illness.
I personally thought the debate was needed so we could secure the needed funds for our mental health system in Ireland. But I do think the debate was stretched out by all the TD’s voicing the same opinions over and over agian just in different ways. I think this was a matter that could of been sorted quickly and easily becaise it is quite clear that this country is in desperate need of these funds to imrove our mental health system.
By Seán Savage