Investment in mental health services needs to be front and centre of the Government’s response to Covid-19, according to Róisín Shortall TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Shortall said:

“Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on physical and mental health. At a time when demand has increased, service delivery has slowed – and in some cases stopped – giving the pandemic two strikes against our nation’s mental wellbeing.

“With higher levels of depression and anxiety recorded across many nations, the UN has warned that the pandemic risks sparking a major global mental health crisis.

“We know this is the case in Ireland. Research carried out has shown that, at a minimum, one-third of people in this country have experienced serious mental health difficulties during the pandemic. In young people, that figure rises to over half.

“Isolation and depression are on the rise as a result of the pandemic, and referrals for mental health services have significantly increased. Services which were already chronically underfunded have been left completely overwhelmed, and people who are in serious need of urgent care are left waiting.

“At the start of 2020, there were nearly 2,000 children on the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) waiting lists. It is shocking that these figures are pre-Covid and it really illustrates how strained mental health providers already were before facing the additional impact of the pandemic. Since then, we have seen a 25% increase (now 2,440) in the number of children and young people on the CAMHS waiting lists.

“In primary care, there are more than 10,000 people across all ages on waiting lists to see a psychologist. We have seen this replicated across the sector. Ninety-two percent of Mental Health Reform members have said they require additional resources to deal with the impact of Covid-19.

“Unless adequate funding is provided, the mental health impacts of Covid-19 will have long lasting implication for many people.”

December 9, 2020

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