Dáil debates

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Mental Health During and Post Covid-19: Statements


2:05 pm

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick City, Fine Gael)

I spoke on this subject a number of weeks ago and I asked to speak on it again today because it will be a hugely important issue into the future. We probably will be living with Covid indefinitely. It is like no other pandemic that has gone before. Covid is going to be on the horizon in some shape or form, possibly for the rest of our lifetimes. Lockdowns will potentially be required at different times. Life is not going to be as we once knew it.

When it comes to mental health services, there must be a basic trust that an adequate level of service will provided, but the service also has to be Covid-proofed. I have a number of questions for the Minister of State in this regard. Is the national mental health policy document, Sharing the Vision, Covid-proofed? I understand a national implementation monitoring committee has been established to oversee the putting in place of measures set out in the document. However, people need to sit down and think about what else is needed in a world where we have ongoing lockdowns, with people unable to attend day care centres, for instance, or schools and colleges. I prefer to talk about mental well-being as distinct from mental health. Sharing the Vision is the blueprint for mental health services delivery and it must be Covid-proofed. The implementation monitoring committee should be involved in that effort, just as it is key in ensuring national policy is implemented. The HSE's Covid-19 psychosocial response framework will also form part of this work.

As a Deputy for Limerick city, I have seen the impact of Covid across all age groups and sectors. I have seen it at first hand in my own family, as we all have. It has affected people in college and school, in particular, as well as elderly people living on their own. We need to have different dimensions to our response. Sharing the Vision is the founding document in terms of how we are going to shape the future of mental health services delivery in this country. I ask the Minister of State to set up a policy group to ensure it is Covid-proofed. Everything we do from now on must recognise that we are living in a world with Covid. It is now generally acknowledged that stamping the virus out completely may not be on the horizon for a long time, if ever. We need to adapt to the Covid world in which we live and that brings different dimensions with it. For people working from home, for example, a lack of social interaction may be an issue. As I said, I would not even regard this as an issue of mental health but, rather, one of mental well-being. Many employers are now telling their staff they are not to work in their bedrooms and must dedicate another room in the house for working.

In conclusion, I have a very straightforward request for the Minister of State. Sharing the Vision, the national mental health policy document, and everything else to do with mental health services provision within the HSE and the Department of Health must be Covid-proofed. I would like a commitment from her that this work will get under way and we will see a revised policy document published.


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