Mental health, who cares?
Anyone who cares about mental health will be demoralised by the news of budget cuts announced this week.
This comes after an election campaign where there was barely any mention of mental health in the public debates, or proposals for government.
At a time of increasing need, why is the issue of mental health being ignored, or undermined by those in charge?
It’s true that with a lot of worthy issues, throwing more money at the problem isn’t always the best solution, but mental health services around the country have suffered over the last few years of austerity. Some of these services are grossly under resourced.
What’s the plan for mental health?
This decision to cut funding for mental health could be to do with the lack of a clear national strategy as the outdatedA Vision for Change is at the end of its lifespan and nothing has been developed to replace it.
Added to this, systems that are in place aren’t always working and are not always suitable for those who end up in them.
Mental health is now a part of the everyday conversation in Ireland and is widely discussed in the media. This is progress, for sure. But, how we’re looking at mental health is not necessarily changing or progressing.
Traditional mental health systems
The systems in place to support mental health are the same as they have been for years with the majority tailored for when people are in crisis, disregarding the period that can lead there and the things that contribute to mental health problems developing in the first place.
We know from people visiting and commenting on ReachOut.com there a huge number of issues going on for young people causing them distress. In a lot of cases, ending up in traditional mental health services would not be helpful or the right solution.
But, in the absence of anything else, that is where people find themselves, on waiting lists for services that don’t really suit.
As with all areas in health, prevention is better than ‘cure’. So detecting and intervening early when someone’swellbeing is under stress could mean waiting lists for traditional services wouldn’t be what they are.
What can we do to change?
When someone is lonely and scared or weighed under with stress about debt, their needs are different to those of someone with a clinical diagnosis.
Creating an environment where individuals feel entitled to ask for support, at any stage, to help them through a tough time is crucial too. The continuous confusing use of the term ‘mental health’ when we are really talking about about ‘mental illness’ means people will not engage with mental health interventions until much later on.
It’s high time we engaged with the issue of mental health as something vital to all of us and not as a marginal issue competing with other marginal issues for scarce government funding.
Any budget cuts now will impact on the many positive initiatives that have begun in the areas of suicide prevention and positive mental health promotion and that affects all of us.
At a time when our collective mental health needs hope, the government announcing cuts makes us wonder if they really care at all.