Thursday, 3 June 2021
Mental Health During and Post Covid-19: Statements
Jennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
Supporting positive mental health and well-being must be a priority because these services are very limited. We have a lack of consultants in the area and limited appointments, assessments and treatments. It is a worry. I understand that the pandemic has had a big part to play in those limitations but it has also highlighted that these services are urgent and essential. The Minister of State spoke about funding, which is a big issue.
We must look after our older people. I am aware that is one of the priorities of the Minister of State and it is important. We also need funding for our younger people. Is there a plan to put a programme in place for children and young adults in order to teach them the life skills they will need? That is important.
If anything, the pandemic has changed the way I see things. It has affected people. Surveys have been done that reflect an increase in the numbers of people reporting symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression caused by the pandemic. What extra supports can we provide for people? Anxiety, depression and stress are understandably affecting people.
A campaign, Hello Carlow, launched last week. It is all about connecting with each other and asking others the simple question, "How are you?" I have spoken to the Minister of State and know how dedicated she is to working on different programmes. It is important to ask others, "How are you?" and get that communication out there. People should talk and they should know they can go somewhere to talk. Talking is a part of healing. I ask that we promote more campaigns like the one in Carlow. It was great, and I compliment all the volunteers who were involved. I understand they might look at rolling out the campaign nationally next year. Will the Minister of State put a programme together to fund national campaigns to encourage people to say, "Hello, how are you?" to each other? Perhaps the Minister of State will come back to me on that. I know we need to look at funding.
I am concerned that we are going to see a fall-out from the pandemic for years to come. What can the Minister of State do? What can Deputies do, working in our areas and working with young people, perhaps through schools? It is important that talks are delivered in schools. However, we need something stronger. Every county needs to put more resources into examining what more we can do to help. I have no problem volunteering. We have to be able to talk. We have to know that we can go into schools or other areas where we can talk. We can see what we can do. Perhaps we should work with professionals on that.
I know how hard the Minister of State is working. I encourage her to ensure that funding is not going to be an issue for services, going forward, and that we will not be getting phone calls from people telling us they cannot access services. We must make sure of funding. Mental health must be a priority in general but especially after a pandemic. We must put more funding into the mental health sector.