Dáil debates

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2008 [Seanad]: Second Stage


7:55 pm

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on this Bill. Last week, a High Court judge stated the mental health services in Roscommon are in chaos. That is a regrettable statement to have to make. I have been saying this for months on end. I am not laying the blame at the foot of the Minister but ultimately the Minister must call the shots. People seem not to be worried about how people have been looked after in Roscommon and east Galway. The Minister of State is aware of the circumstances in Ballinasloe, where services were withdrawn. We are opting for the new idea of community service. Perhaps there are good parts to it — I am not an expert — but people I have encountered in the past seven to nine months have faced many walls they could not climb because, sadly, the system has failed us.

One night at 8.30 p.m. a woman telephoned me whose brother was suicidal. As a public representative, I spent two hours talking to the hospital trying to get the man assessed but I could not achieve that. Sadly, he had to be brought that night to a private hospital in Dublin to help him. These are the circumstances on the ground in Roscommon and east Galway. We cannot and should not condone the activity of people who are running the service in this way. Ultimately, lives are lost unnecessarily.

I do not know what is wrong when there are good mental health services in some parts of the country and not in others. It may be a matter of personnel but, ultimately, if one does not deliver the goods one should not be doing the job. That is the bottom line with me. People working in the HSE who are not delivering the goods should not be left in their positions. What we have seen in our area is regrettable. No one takes pleasure in saying that. The service is in disarray and there is no joined-up thinking about how to solve the problem.

I know elderly people with a son or daughter with a mental illness and they are afraid of their lives at present. We do not have the answers. Consider the provisions in the mental health legislation that might help those with a drink problem and mental illness at the same time. I can talk about this personally because someone who belongs to me has faced it. Having such people admitted is difficult. They may not hit skid row or realise they have a problem, or they may just keep stonewalling to the extent that one faces a battle to have them admitted anywhere. Everywhere one telephones the staff say the person with the problem must walk in and want to deal with it. In America, circumstances are different if people have a major problem. There are those who never can see the problem but a family member, doctor or member of the police force can go to the courts to secure admission. I am not suggesting a patient should be admitted for a year or six months but for ten, 15 or 20 days. In that period, he may see the light. We have to do this because there are many families throughout the country suffering torture tonight and every night who do not know where to turn. As politicians, we need to address this. It must not be allowed to continue. I have encountered this problem and it is like facing a stone wall. For the betterment of people in every part of the country, we must change admission procedures because families are being torn apart by the obstacle being put in their way.


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