Joan Freeman Budget 2018 Statement

“INCREASED SPEND ON MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES WELCOMED, BUT COMMUNITIES STILL NOT FEELING THE BENEFIT”

“As Chair of the Future Committee on Mental Health, I welcome the announcement that €55 million will be added to the capital spend on mental health in 2019. This is a significant increase from €35 million last year. However, more spending in an inefficient system is not the only solution to the delivery of better services. We need to see this money translate into local services for people across Ireland.

During the course of my presidential campaign, I’ve met with the people who depend on the delivery of an efficient mental health service.

I’ve listened to parents in Carlow who had to go to South East Galway because there were no beds for their mentally ill children near their home. I’ve met young adults on waiting lists for months to get appropriate services in Cork. Increased funding alone will not fix these structural shortcomings. We need a mental health service that provides an adequate number of beds, psychologists and GPs required to meet local demand.

It’s vital that these services are delivered because the prevalence of mental health problems in Ireland is increasing. Between 2011 and 2016, Ireland witnessed a 30% increase in psychological and emotional conditions among our people. The situation for our young people is equally a cause of concern; we have the fourth highest suicide rate in Europe.

However, I’m heartened that it is not all negative. I’ve spent the past few weeks travelling around the country and I have found it so encouraging to see how Ireland is finally waking up to the fact that mental health & wellbeing are fundamental to all aspects of our lives. I’ve met communities of volunteers right across the country who are giving up their time to provide vital services in their area. Last week I met with Limerick Suicide Watch and saw to their credit, the impressive work they do patrolling bridges and providing support to people in distress. I’ve also visited schools where the awareness of and discussion around positive mental health is becoming more normalised.

I can see, the ripples of change are there and there’s a belief that as a nation we can do so much more. Just look at the report by Mental Health Reform last week which showed that an overwhelming majority of people want to see an increased focus on mental health services in this country. This would not have been the case five years ago.

It’s time to create a culture of wellbeing in Ireland. The Office of The President can do just that and I, as President, will lead this.”