Thursday, 29 April 2021
Covid-19, Mental Health and Older People: Statements
I join colleagues in extending my heartiest congratulations to the Minister, Deputy McEntee, and her husband.
As we know, Covid has presented myriad challenges and difficulties for the past 15 months. Once the virus is suppressed, there will be many other problems and legacy issues to be addressed. We must now put in place the necessary supports. People of all age groups losing their routines, be those work, learning, sport or social contact, has had a damaging impact on the mental health of many. Supporting positive mental health must be a continuing priority for the Government. We need much-improved State services and additional supports for voluntary organisations that provide professional services. I know from speaking to a number of GPs that there is a large amount of anxiety and panic disorders in all age groups, especially among teenagers. Some GPs have outlined to me that some young people are presenting with physical symptoms that turn out to be manifestations of stress.
We need adequate psychological assessments and follow-up support. Far too often, families need to source that support privately, imposing unnecessary financial burdens on people.
I welcome the continued roll-out of the vaccine programme but there are still difficulties for some GPs. I ask the two Ministers of State to provide more certainty and clarity on the roll-out. Overall, it is a very successful programme with people working very hard, but whenever there is lack of clarity, it presents difficulties for everybody.
As we work through this pandemic, we have an opportunity for further co-operation between North and South on a public health basis. There is potential for GPs to work on a North-South initiative. Unfortunately, far too often, our regulations have not run in parallel with the Northern Ireland restrictions and vice versa. We need to work together much more. We need to have the same approach as much as possible. We need to continue to work towards achieving a better level of co-operation between North and South with more co-ordination at all levels. We will only be as successful as we need to be by addressing this very serious pandemic on an all-Ireland basis.