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Deputy Michael McNamara.

Concern Over Impact Of Lockdown On Mental Health

DEPUTY Michael McNamara has criticised the lack of comprehensive information on self-harm presentations and suicide in Ireland during the current “oppressive” lockdown.

The East Clare deputy has described the lack of empirical evidence on the impact of the lockdowns for people with mental health difficulties as an insult to these patients.

The Independent deputy has expressed frustration about receiving self-harm information from only 24 out of 36 acute hospitals who are collecting this data.

Speaking in the Dáil recently, Deputy McNamara stated nothing visibly has happened since he raised this issue recently.

Acknowledging Minister of State, Mary Butler is working hard behind the scenes to advance mental health issues, he stressed everyone is living in an “incredibly oppressive society at present”.

“The feeling is entirely oppressive and it is largely driven by elements in the media. I questioned whether there was sufficient coverage of mental health and I was attacked by some public health doctors for doing that and told that, of course, the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, is trained to take account of mental health data.

“I asked how can it take account of it if it is not there, and a media outlet, instead of probing whether the data were there or not, ran, in what I would consider to be an attempt to discredit my probing of it, a line stating that the chief medical officer, stated that NPHET regularly takes account of mental health.

“However, if you look at the minutes of NPHET, no account was taken of mental health up to the time of that second lockdown. One sub-committee mentioned it but there was no mention otherwise.

“The HSE national clinical programme for awareness and management of patients presenting with self-harm came out and stated that I was wrong to say that there was not data and that it had data from every emergency department.

“When one looks for the data, one finds out that they have data from some emergency departments but no data from any of the children’s hospitals. We know children are suffering and we know that there are emergency departments so that is a lie on behalf of a Government agency to discredit somebody who is probing stuff. That is not good. That is oppressive.

“We have another arm of the Government practically going out to Dublin Airport to burn witches live on air. I am talking about RTÉ. It is a disgrace. It is oppressive. It is driving anxiety in the State what RTÉ is doing.”

He claimed the Irish Times is entitled to money from the government after “doing the government’s bidding for a year”.

Minister Butler stressed her primary focus since she took up the job was to get the national implementation and monitoring committee in place for Sharing the Vision.

Given the country was dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, she wanted to ensure that services could be retained insofar as was possible.

“Between 85% and 90% of all services are ongoing.

“I agree wholeheartedly that loneliness, isolation and anxiety are a problem. People are really concerned at the moment and we have never seen such high levels of issues from the low impact of mental health challenges.

“The HSE’s psychosocial framework is particularly focused on healthcare staff. That does not just include staff in the HSE sector; supports and counselling are available across all the sectors, including for those working in nursing homes.

“There are another 2,000 of them in nursing homes and 300 mental health staff who are out on Covid-19 leave.

“On Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS), which is close to my heart, I met yesterday with the HSE in relation to the €23 million I secured in the budget. There will be 29 extra child and adolescent mental health staff put in place. The waiting list is currently at around 2,500 and I am anxious that it be reduced.”

She confirmed funding has been provided this year for the additional staff required to develop the HSE psychosocial framework.

Currently, there are 12,000 under-18s on the primary care list and 6,000 of them have been waiting over 12 months, which Minister Butler said is not acceptable.

“I met with the HSE recently and with the primary care team. We are putting in place a 12-month approach to reduce the waiting list. I spoke to the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, last week on the funding. I am hopeful that in the next three or four weeks, I will be able to bring forward a proposal that will significantly reduce that waiting list. People are quite right that GPs are putting children onto waiting lists.

“Some are going onto the CAMHS waiting list and some are going onto the primary care waiting list. When there is a child who needs these supports, people and parents cannot wait. As a parent, I understand that so I am working hard to devise a targeted approach to the waiting list, especially for those waiting over 12 months.”

Dan Danaher

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