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Covid-19 continues to expose glaring gaps in the provision of mental health services, according to Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Holly said:

“The pandemic is taking its toll on everyone’s mental health. This is especially felt by people living alone; young people who are denied their usual social outlets; and people who have not been able to see their family members since last March.

“Covid-19 has highlighted continued under-investment in our mental health services. There is an over-reliance on GPs and over-stretched NGOs; a lack of multi-disciplinary teams in settings where they are required the most; and the continued practice of keeping people with psychiatric conditions in congregated settings.

“Staff from primary care mental health services, which were already stretched before the pandemic, have been redeployed to other areas. Resources are being taken away from the preventative and early intervention areas.

“Covid-19 can exacerbate existing mental health issues. It is therefore very worrying that no funding was allocated to the national eating disorder treatment plan for 2020, and of the €1.6 million allocated in 2019, none was spent. Eating disorders, which disproportionately present among young women, are some of the psychiatric conditions most associated with mortality.

“Another major concern is the inappropriate accommodation of people with disabilities in congregated settings. There are over 1,500 people with disabilities under 65 who are in nursing homes, some psychiatric patients residing in institutions, and many people living in intellectual disability services. Despite the best efforts of all involved, Covid-19 spreads quickly in these congregated settings.

“We need to be prepared for a tsunami of referrals for mental health services when we come out the other side of the pandemic. If the Government fails to invest now, we will end up paying a very high price.”

February 4, 2021

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