Mental health provision of €25m ‘a mere sop’

THE provision of an estimated €25 million in mental health spending was described as inadequate and “a mere sop” by the Psychiatric Nurses’ Organisation. Spokesman Seamus Murphy expressed his disappointment with the gesture by Finance Minister Brian Cowen.

There were also uncertainties about where the money would be spent and if the €25m mentioned in yesterday’s Budget was additional to the €21m provided in the estimates for 2007.

Mr Murphy said he posed that question because €25m alone would be far from adequate to restore proper supports and services.

He said that €46m would also fall far short of a realistic spend on mental health.

The mental health budget had dwindled from 11% of the overall health budget in the 1990s to about 7% today.

In an European context the scenario was even more sobering. “Ireland has one of the lowest levels of spending on mental health than most other European countries,” he said.

European average spend was 13% of overall health budgets and Ireland trailed well behind that, he said.

Yesterday, the minister promised the provision of additional community-based mental health facilities, including mental health day centres, day hospitals and community residential facilities.

The Budget also made reference to the proposed appointment of extra front-line staff to enhance the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services available to adults and children with mental illness “in order to support the continued implementation of A Vision for Change”.

Additional funding would be made available to support the continued implementation of Reach Out National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention 2005-2014, the minister said.

These measures will cost an estimated €25m in 2007, according to the minister.


Mentally ill children suffering from long-term Govt under funding – Neville

Fine Gael Deputy Health Spokesperson, Dan Neville TD, has said that the dismal response of the current Government to severely sub-standard child and adolescent psychiatric services, despite its unprecedented wealth, amounted to wholesale neglect. Deputy Neville added that unacceptably long waiting lists and the lack of in-patient places for young people, highlighted by the Prime Time programme, had tragically been evident for years.

‘Last night’s Prime Time programme starkly revealed the human suffering of those children and parents abandoned by Ireland’s under-resourced psychiatric services. A deeply saddening exposé, it was unfortunately not surprising to those of us who have been working on mental health issues for some time.

‘The fact is that child and adolescent psychiatric services account for only 5-10% of spending on mental health services, while serving 22.68% of the population. This under-investment has resulted, as we saw last night, in child and adolescent services which are either sporadic or non-existent.

‘This situation has been allowed to develop despite the fact that in excess of 200,000 children have a mental or behavioural problem at any one time. The infrastructure is not in place to meet these needs and the lack of specialised services for young people has led to unacceptable long waiting lists and the admission of children into adult services.

‘Hearing the personal stories of those young people last night who endured inappropriate accommodation in adult units was a gruelling experience and absolutely surreal in the context of 21st Century Celtic Tiger Ireland. It is absolutely galling to read that the current Government has taken in €8 billion more in taxes than expected in their own estimates and yet the State is still abandoning the most vulnerable of our citizens.

‘Fine Gael, along with our colleagues in the Labour party, has committed to increasing specialist out-patient teams for child and adolescent services by 50% and to bringing the established teams up to the recommended staffing complement. In our first year of Government we will devote €16 million to child and adolescent services and we have committed to an €80 million programme over 5 years to increase in-patient facilities and achieve the target of comprehensive, fully staffed services for the specific needs of ADHD/hyperkinetic disorder and conduct disorder.

‘In light of the very personal pain revealed in the Prime Time programme, the suffering of the children involved and the agony of parents whose children are either psychologically or physically being lost to them, the response of the Minister in charge of mental health services was deeply disappointing. Instead of casting about for scapegoats and calling for reviews when it’s too late, the Minister should be apologising to those families who have been unable to find help despite their desperate need. Furthermore he should focus on completing those developments which are already underway as quickly as possible as well as following through on long-promised commitments.’

Teens in bid to reduce number of Belfast suicides

Two Belfast teenagers are at the centre of a new bid to cut the city’s suicide rates from 150 a year, it emerged today.

Caitlín Ní Cathail and Paul McCann have become the youngest team ever to be trained in internationally renowned techniques to recognise the symptoms before it’s too late.

The pair attended a conference in Newfoundland, Canada, to partake in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).

The initiative, developed over 23 years, involves a first-aid process to detect any warning signs and intervene.

Mr McCann, 19, a student from west Belfast’s Lower Falls, said: “It’s to help recognise the basic concept of suicide and symptoms such as stress and giving away possessions and act on them.

“We see ourselves as care workers trying to pull people out of the river of suicide.”

Mr McCann and Ms Ní Cathail, both 18, from Ballymurphy, west Belfast, work with Belfast City Council’s Youth Forum, where they are teaching colleagues about what can be done to protect those at risk.

They are also planning to run a course for staff working in the community and team up with the Samaritans to put on a play at City Hall in December to raise awareness of the difficulties facing some of the most vulnerable at Christmas.

“We would like as many people as possible to come along,” said Mr McCann.

“Suicide is something people find hard to talk about, but we need to start looking closely at what we can do to intervene before it happens.”

He added: “The Youth Forum has identified suicide as a major area of concern and has drawn up a strategy to help tackle it.

“We aim to raise awareness among as many people as possible, highlighting the effects suicide has on our community.

“There is often a great stigma or taboo around suicide which may prevent people reaching out for help.

“However, they often give involuntary signals that they are thinking about it and if we can pick these up we can apply first aid until the necessary help is forthcoming. In this way ASIST is proven to work and it helps save lives.”


Major National Survey of Public Attitudes to Suicide is Welcome – Neville

Dan Neville TD, Fine Gael Deputy Spokesman on Health and Children today (Wednesday) welcomed the launch of a survey on Irish attitudes to suicide saying:

“The Irish Association of Suicidology’s Survey of Public Attitudes to Suicide in Ireland, North and South, conducted on behalf of the Association by Millward Brown IMS is the first such survey conducted on a national basis and is most revealing. Its findings include:

• 83% of respondents in the Republic and 86% in the North do not think that politicians or Government are doing enough to raise awareness of suicide.
• The vast majority of people do not think enough is being done to prevent suicide in Ireland. Suicide has clearly touched the lives of many people in Ireland in some way, therefore many of the attitudes expressed come from some level of ‘direct’ experience.
• In general Irish people are non-judgemental and sympathetic towards the issue of suicide. This empathy is however coupled with a strong desire to see all possible measures taken to prevent suicide. 25% of respondents in the Republic and 22% in the North would not feel ashamed if a member of their family died by suicide.
• The stigma surrounding suicide appears to have eased somewhat – this tendency is further underlined by the strong support for the decriminalisation of the act. 79% of respondents in the Republic and 64% in the North agreed with the decriminalisation of suicide.
• Issues surrounding the morality of suicide and the right to die are contentious and often highly polarising, although people tend to change their view somewhat when the issue of incurable illness is raised. These are all difficult and emotive moral questions which are always likely to cause divisions in society. In general however, most Irish people wish to see maximum efforts made to prevent the suicide of an individual. In no way does ‘understanding’ of suicide translate into an acceptance or complacent attitude towards the issue for most people. 57% in the Republic and 56% in the North disagreed that once someone has decided to complete suicide that nothing can stop them.
• Overall these findings point to a high degree of latent support for organisations that try to prevent suicide and there is much goodwill and understanding available for these organisations to take advantage of, in their efforts to prevent suicide in Ireland.
• Understanding of the plight of a suicidal person is channelled into a desire to see the suicide prevented and a person helped, while ‘myths’ surrounding suicide are not generally subscribed to.
• A majority agree that suicide is a symptom of a mental illness – although this level of association is notably higher in Northern Ireland than in the Republic. In the Republic the view is less clear cut, with a very significant minority (38%) disagreeing that suicide is related to mental illness. In Northern Ireland men and younger people are somewhat less likely to think that this association is the case.
• Alcohol is seen by many as a major contributor to suicide. Almost 7 in 10 people in the Republic and 6 in 10 in Northern Ireland agree that this is the case. Those in the 25-34 year old age group are particularly inclined to hold this view in the Republic – where overall the association seems to be more widespread.”

Dark side of Celtic Tiger as suicide claims 450 lives a year – Neville

-Young people at most risk, suicide chief cause of death in under 25s
-Govt must demonstrate political will to tackle tragic epidemic

Fine Gael Deputy Health Spokesperson, Dan Neville TD, has today (Monday) called for political will from Government to reduce the numbers of people dying by suicide each year. Deputy Neville said that social change and increased materialism were bringing about an identity crisis in young people and that while the Celtic Tiger had undoubtedly brought many benefits it also brought many new challenges, for adolescents in particular.

“It must be asked why, at a time of greatest prosperity do so many people feel in such despair that each year an average of 450 take their lives and in excess of 10,000 present at Accident and Emergency having attempted to take their lives? Why in particular are so many of your young people in such crisis that so many decide to end their live? Ireland has the fifth highest suicide rate in the EU among 15 to 24 year olds and suicide is the chief cause of death for those under 25 here. This dark side of the Celtic Tiger is practically ignored.

“It is increasingly difficult for a young person to find a meaningful identity. The people in Ireland that are valued are those that are successful, who are winners, who are in third level education and are high earners. People who are not in this category struggle to find their identity and may experience despair. Six times more young males take their own lives than females. The critical issue for the male adolescent is to derive self-esteem and personal meaning from their identity and position in society.

“Now issues of self and identity are linked to materialism, consumerism and globalisation. Increased materialism has led to weaker social ties and a decline in neighbourliness. We live in an age of uncertainty, an age of anxiety, an age of narcissism. The euro is worshipped. We have lost our way and we don’t know what true value is now. Who we are has come to be determined by what we can buy. The overwhelming message being broadcast is that you are only as good as what you can buy. The constant bombardment with ‘americanised’ images and values can be seen daily, while at the same time traditional cultural icons and role models are ridiculed and reviled.

“Previous generations had a higher dependence and belief on the pillars of society to advise and guide them. The early part of the 21st century is replete with images of distrust, from clerical abuse to political scandal. Doctors kill, politicians are corrupt and businesses bribe and cheat.

“Adolescence is a creation of modern society. In earlier times, individuals moved from being a child to being an adult with no stage of transition. When resources were scarce and individuals had to contend with daily survival in the basic sense, there was no time for adolescence to ‘discover themselves’. An individual was either a child and dependent or an adult and providing for themselves.

“The emergence of adolescence has offered psychological time and space for an individual to consider their future ‘when they grow up’ and offers limitless choices. It has enormous positive advantages in that young people are given an opportunity to choose their own career. There is the opportunity to decide and influence one’s own success. The negative is that the adolescent is also free to fail. Adolescence is a dangerous mix, a time of both opportunity and pressure to succeed.

“If we were left in doubt about the impact of such uncertainty and distrust on our young people, the suicide figures for Ireland over the past 10 years indicate that something maladaptive and unhealthy is taking place.

“Nobody disputes the benefits which have been brought about by the Celtic Tiger but there is a dark side which cannot be ignored. There is an urgent need for comprehensive research into how we can address the complex issues which lead to so many of our young people, especially our young men, taking their own lives.”

*Deputy Dan Neville is President of the Irish Association of Suicidology

Traumatised suicide bereaved neglected by Govt – Neville

Fine Gael Deputy Health Spokesperson, Dan Neville TD, has said today (Tuesday) that those bereaved by suicide suffered exceptional trauma and accused the Government of neglecting this most vulnerable group.

“Many voluntary suicide bereaved groups do excellent work but I believe that the Health Minister must make a commitment towards the development of suicide bereavement counselling. She should also resource research to advance the knowledge of the special trauma suicide inflicts on family and friends of victims. Bereavement groups as well as individuals should have available from the State professional suicide bereavement counselling from professionals who have specialised training in the area.

“Where suicide is involved, there is a tendency for the bereaved to place blame on themselves, however misplaced, especially if there was conflict before hand. Another common reaction in the aftermath of suicide is anger. The apparent deliberate nature of suicide focuses on anger on the deceased for his or her wilful desertion. There can be a feeling that the deceased had the last word in the quarrel. The suicide bereaved often searches for a scapegoat. If the victim had been in psychotherapy the therapist is the obvious choice. If he was under medical care, the doctor may be blamed and if the victim was an alcoholic, this may be blamed.

“The bereaved searches for meaning. In natural death, meaning can be dealt with spiritually or in the case of the elderly, within the natural cycle of life. Death by suicide however raises many questions. Was the victim in his or her right mind? If there are children involved, will they be more likely to be suicidal because of the death? Was the suicide a sin?

“Bereavement by suicide also visits special problems. Gardaí, coroners and insurance agents often subject families to investigation. The need for special counselling for is vital and should be recognised and supported by Government. It is important for the person bereaved by suicide to express feelings in a non-rejecting atmosphere and reach an understanding of the death in order to preserve his/her own self worth.

“I believe that the Minister for Health and Children has a duty and responsibility to ensure that this service is developed as a matter of urgency. In 2004, official figures of suicide were 457 victims and it is accepted that the true figure is much higher. The Government must accept its responsibility to provide assistance for those bereaved by this tragedy who are made patients by no action of their own.”

Youth suicide epidemic grows in face of Govt ignorance – Kenny

People with mental illness are a ‘silent constituency’

The Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny today (Friday) predicted the youth suicide epidemic in Ireland would continue to grow because ‘people with mental illness and their families are a silent constituency, which the Government is prepared to go on ignoring’.

He told the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association Conference Dinner at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan that, in Government, Fine Gael would prioritise mental health, both in hospitals and in the community. He proposed a greater role for patients themselves and their families, in patient care plans.

Critically, he warmly praised the psychiatric nurses for their ‘exceptional work in frequently appalling conditions’, saying ‘you have remembered what our Government has forgotten: your duty to look after our people and their dignity, especially those who are fragile, because of problems with their emotional and mental health’.

Up to 90% of people who take their life are found to suffer from a psychiatric disorder and Deputy Kenny accused the Government of ‘ignoring this crucial connection and persisting in their reckless under-funding of our psychiatric services. In particular, psychiatric services for children and adolescents’.

Deputy Kenny commended the work of his colleague Deputy Dan Neville, the President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, for his consistent work in prioritising the issue of suicide and mental health matters. “I have no doubt that Government neglect of mental health is contributing significantly to the youth suicide crisis, now claiming more young lives than road accidents.”

“Two hundred thousand children will have a mental or behavioural disorder at any one time, but they and their parents cannot rely on an adequate mental health service. For example, we need 236 in-patient and child and adolescent psychiatric beds, but we have only 20 in Dublin and Galway. We need 150 child and adolescent psychiatric posts. We have only 62. We need 39 dedicated adolescent outpatient psychiatric teams. But, there’s not a single one available.

“It’s perfectly obvious: in Ireland 2006, suicide and self-harm are taking lives, ruining families, yet thanks to this Government’s neglect, these people have nowhere to turn to, nowhere to go. If we are at all serious about protecting our young, in particular, our young people who are fragile, we must take a radically different approach and move mental health up the agenda. Early intervention and emergency response are critical. We’ve seen from tragic cases reported in the media that mental health problems don’t keep office hours, therefore, neither should the mental health services.”

Deputy Kenny also told the conference that to guarantee comfort, dignity and best outcome, patients with psychiatric illnesses should play a great role in the decision-making regarding their care. “There is something deeply disturbing about patients with a mental illness being excluded from their care plan or being branded troublesome by the psychiatric services if they demur. Remember, this is the 21st century. I also want to see their families consulted on their care. Doctors should not use ‘patient confidentiality’ to exclude the families of people with mental illness from decisions on the proposed care plan or treatment.”

Enda Kenny said that Fine Gael in Government would prioritise mental health: “Depression alone is set to become the second most disabling medical disorder in the world by the year 2010. There are serious economic implications here. Ireland needs to wake up to that fact that our emotional health is every bit as crucial as our physical health. One in four people experiences a problem with their mental health. We have a long life ahead of us, hopefully, and which of us knows when it will be our turn to experience it for ourselves?”

Report shows 3% rise in suicide rate in last year – Neville

– 457 deaths by suicide in 2004
– 356 men and 101 women took their own lives
– Highest rate of suicide (22%) between ’98 and ’02 was among 15-24 year olds

Fine Gael Deputy Health Spokesperson and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville TD said today (Friday) that the 2004 Annual Report of the National Suicide Review Group confirmed that the suicide rate had increased again in 2004. Deputy Neville said that resources available for suicide prevention were deeply disappointing and that it was vital that the new National Office for Suicide Prevention was funded to a level which could make real change.

“This latest report makes for grim and distressing reading, especially in that it shows that there has been no serious reduction in suicide rates since the publication of the recommendations of the National Taskforce on Suicide in 1998. Analysis of suicides between 1998 and 2002 shows the average annual number of suicides was 490. It also shows that the rate of death by suicide is 4.5 times higher for men than women. Tragically, 22% of the people who took their own lives in this period were aged between 15 and 24.

“This is the last report of the National Suicide Review Group, as it will be replaced by the National Office for Suicide Prevention, and we thank the group for the work they have done. However, it is extremely disappointing that the group was never financed in a way that could bring real change and it is vital that the new body is funded to a level that can make a real difference to dealing with suicide and attempted suicide.

“Funding for suicide to date has been a pittance in relation to the great need which is out there. I will be calling on the Government in the Dáil next week to clarify the role of the National Office for Suicide Prevention as what is more certain than ever is the urgency of real, comprehensive, professional and resourced input into suicide prevention in Ireland.”

National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Must be Properly Funded For It to Be Effective-Neville

Received the following Press Release from Fine Gael National Headquarters about the Governments Suicide Prevention Strategy

Following the launch of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Health and Children, Dan Neville TD, today (Thursday) welcomed the new proposals as a step towards highlighting and dealing with this very serious public health issue and urged the Government to ensure that the necessary funding would be made available.

“It would be unrealistic to expect a magic formula to reduce suicide levels but the proposals outlined today are welcome. In particular, I am delighted that there is a proposal to promote positive mental health and to implement a national intervention skills training programme.

“The recommendations within the National Strategy published today are similar to the 1998 recommendations of the National Taskforce on Suicide.

“The National Suicide Prevention Office that is to be set up to implement strategy, for example, is similar to the 1998 recommendation of the establishment of a National Suicide Review group. That group was given a similar task but it was not suitably resourced by the Government.

“Fine Gael urges the Government on this occasion to provide the necessary resources to implement today’s recommendations. Otherwise, the Strategy will gather dust and the Prevention Office will be ineffectual.

“It is somewhat disappointing that the recommendations are not costed as this would allow for an evaluation of resource allocation. Suicide reduction targets are a feature of most suicide prevention policies in other countries and it is also a pity that these are not included. I urge the Tánaiste to honour her commitment that she gave at the Strategy’s launch, to bring such targets to Government as soon as possible.”

‘Talk’ YFG Anti-Suicide Campaign launched in Cork

The Cork City Branch of Young Fine Gael (YFG) recently launched their ‘Talk’ campaign in Cork City. The ‘Talk’ campaign us a campaign to raise awareness of mental health problems and remove the stigma surrounding them in Ireland. The stigma that surrounds mental health problems makes it difficult for some people to seek help or discuss their problems with friends. This causes further problems for people and can lead to many more problems such as; alcoholism, drug addiction or attempt to commit suicide.

Suicide is a major problem in Ireland. Every 45 minutes, the time it takes to watch half a soccer match, someone in Ireland aged between 16 and 25 attempts suicide. This is a shocking statistic and something must be done.

When the current Government came to power in 1997 they commissioned a report into the problems of youth suicide in Ireland. This report made a number of recommendations to try and solve the problem of youth suicide. The Government has yet to implement any of the recommendations made in this report.

YFG is calling for the problems of mental health and youth suicide in Ireland to be tackled competently by the Government by implementing recommendations in current reports and increasing the mental health budget which has decreased over the past number of years in comparison to the overall health budget.