South Tipperary independent TD Deputy Mattie McGrath has hit out at Minister of State for Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch, after confirmation was given that the Government’s €35 million annual commitment to mental health services is to be significantly downgraded to €20 million.
Deputy McGrath said the minister’s position is now completely untenable and she should resign immediately.
“This is a savage and heartless cut of €15 million. At a time when we as a nation are enduring what only be described as a mental health state of emergency, these further cuts are a step too far. Ireland is already in the unenviable position of having the fourth highest suicide rate among 14-24 year-olds in the EU and the third highest among young men aged between 15 and 19. Between 45% and 65% will be suffering from treatable mental illnesses such as depression or psychosis. Most people wait far too long before seeking help. Yet we now know that intervening early in these conditions can stop their deterioration, help recovery, and prevent relapse. How can any of these objectives be achieved with a Minister in charge who has utterly failed to stand by the Programme for Government commitment to ringfence €35 million a year for the provision of mental health? It is time for Minister Lynch to go and be replaced by someone who is capable of making a far more robust defence of the mental health budget,” said Deputy McGrath.
Minister Lynch has acknowledged that just 4% of the 477 mental health staff promised in last year’s Vision for Change mental health plan have been recruited although the Minister insists the remaining staff will be in place by the end of the year. Mental health campaign groups have reacted to the cuts and to the deficit in frontline staff by saying the impact on the ground will be damaging and long term.
“It is simply unacceptable for this Government and Minister Lynch to go on overseeing the gradual decimation of mental health care in this Country. Piece by piece the infrastructure is being dismantled and the burden is falling excessively on groups like the Samaritans and Pieta House to pick up the shortfall created by Government budget cuts. In South Tipperary alone we have seen the near erosion of primary mental healthcare with the closure of St Michael’s and the loss of 49 acute service beds. If we are serious at all about preventing or reducing the epidemic of suicide and depression that is sweeping our country then we need far more than formulaic guff about Government commitments and the noble but ultimately empty promises that have been issuing from the Department of Health lately.”