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Senator shares concerns over mental health impact of lockdown

CLARE’S Green Senator has shared her experience of trying to help a woman who was experiencing suicidal feelings during the lockdown earlier this year.

Speaking at the meeting of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC), Senator Róisín Garvey said she was concerned for the woman, as well as the time it took to access emergency support services. She called for more detailed figures to be made available to members on the number of mental health issues Gardaí had responded to.

“There has been an increase in the number of people experiencing mental health crises because of Covid-19,” she native said. “I met a woman who was suicidal and after speaking to hear for an hour, I phoned the Gardaí. I rang one of those stations that we have spent a lot of money on. The Garda couldn’t come out for 40 minutes and after that, the woman was seen by a GP. I found the whole situation deeply disturbing.”

Senator Garvey said that while those who responded to her call did their best, they didn’t necessarily have the expertise needed in such situations.

“I do have to say that the Gardaí were brilliant and there was an excellent community Garda who came out,” she outlined. “We all know that GPs are great, but they’re not mental health experts either.”

Responding to Senator Garvey, the chief superintendent agreed that mental health problems had seemed to increase during the pandemic. “It has become an issue and it is a problem,” Chief Superintendent Seán Colleran said. “I agree that GPs are not mental health experts and that we aren’t either, but GPs make the deciding call. We can look at producing figures on the number of arrests.”

Senator Garvey said that having figures would help public representatives to support the Gardaí. “If we have the statistics, then we can lobby,” she said.

Chief Superintendent Colleran noted that not all of those who come to Garda attention due to mental health conditions are arrested and therefore are not represented in the available data.

About Fiona McGarry

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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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