Supporting Mental Health

Decades of chronic under-resourcing and a lack of integration have hampered the effective development of mental health services in Ireland. This lack of appropriate services due to inadequate resource allocation has stigmatised people suffering with mental health issues and isolated them in terms of treatment choices. The Social Democrats want to eliminate that stigma and create a culture that fosters a positive approach to mental well-being.

The Social Democrats commit to delivering all aspects of the 2006 ‘Vision for Change’ strategy as a cornerstone of our mental health plan. Fully implemented, this strategy will not only be responsive to individuals suffering from mental health issues, but will also work to proactively equip people with basic tools to positively strengthen awareness of their own mental health and recognise when to seek help.

Proactive Care

  • As with any medical condition, prevention is always better than cure. With regard to mental-health this poses a particular challenge as outmoded attitudes and cultural perceptions have contributed to a culture of silence. The Social Democrats want to change this.
  • Early intervention is critical in addressing emerging mental health difficulties and we support the extension of successful infant mental health and well-being programmes where these are currently being provided on a pilot basis.
  • As part of the ‘Driving Quality and Access in Education’ portion of our manifesto, we have committed to the introduction of a curriculum to proactively develop children’s mental health and well-being.
  • In addition, the Social Democrats also recognise the importance for children of parental mental-health. To this end special focus will be given to vulnerable new parents in the allocation of resources, (this also forms part of the ‘early years’ portion of our manifesto.)
  • As part of our plan for education we have committed to restoring guidance counsellors to all secondary schools. Building on this restoration, we will commit to developing a system whereby guidance counsellors are equipped with the skills to deliver classes on positive mental well-being in secondary schools
  • We support the aims of Connecting for Life; in particular we would seek to urgently address adolescent suicide by equipping teachers and guidance counsellors with best-practice training to be able to effectively identify and respond to children in need.

Enhancing Responsiveness

  • Suicide is one of the biggest killers in our community; it is not acceptable that people should have to wait for crisis intervention.
  • The Social Democrats will work to ensure that in conjunction with pro-active efforts to improve mental well-being there are also dedicated mental health teams on call 24/7 in each hospital area.

Holistic and Inclusive Care

  • Studies have shown that prescribed physical exercise, CBT, Mindfulness and other forms of treatment are at least as effective in treating depression and anxiety as SSRIs and other drugs. We will work to ensure that these options are offered to service users, empowering them to make choices about how they themselves want their treatment to develop.
  • For too long the solution to mental health issues in Ireland was seen to be medication. While we recognise that medication plays a critical role in the treatment for many, too often GPs see this as the only treatment option in the absence of adequate talk and therapeutic services.
  • We will further invest in community mental-health teams as part of our primary care policy and allied health professionals will form a core of this investment.
  • The Social Democrats will work to fully resource and expand the Counselling in Primary Care service (CIPC) to ensure better access to properly accredited community based services that suit the needs of users.
  • We will ring-fence specialised mental-health funding for the most ‘at-risk’ groups, including young parents, the Travelling Community, asylum seekers, the LGBTQ community and persons with physical and mental disabilities.
  • A core aspect of the Social Democrat mental health policy is to tackle the service distinction between addiction and mental health. Substance abuse and mental health issues often go hand in hand, and the first point of contact with a service provider for individuals with a dual-diagnosis should seek to tackle both issues in a holistic fashion. A study by the UK Dept. of Health, suggest that 75% of users of drug services and 85% of users of alcohol services experienced mental health problems. 44% of mental health service users reported drug use. (Weaver et al, 2002)[1]. The Social Democrats would realign the mental-health and addiction services of the HSE to tackle the intertwined issues of addiction and mental health in a complimentary fashion.
  • Specifically in relation to substance misuse issues The Social Democrats support:
    • The early enactment of all sections of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.
    • The amendment of the Misuse of Drugs Act to address the widespread problem of the street trading and abuse of prescription drugs.
    • The restoration of resources to the Garda Drug unit
    • A fundamental review of drug treatment services
    • An enhanced role for drug and alcohol task forces.
  • In line with our international obligations the Social Democrats have committed to enacting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a priority. This will be done in conjunction with new legislation on patient advocacy, the regulation of community based counselling and therapy services and Advance Healthcare Directives.



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