Thursday, 3 June 2021
Mental Health During and Post Covid-19: Statements
Martin Kenny (Sligo-Leitrim, Sinn Fein)
We are all very conscious of the mental health services and the poor provision in place before Covid even came along. Very many people were struggling to get assessments and services and to have a sense of continuance and a sense that services was going to be there for them in the future. That is a legacy the Minister of State has inherited. I know she is doing her best to try to cope with it under difficult circumstances. I have spoken to her about CAMHS in counties Sligo and Leitrim and some improvements have happened there. There has been recruitment and I acknowledge there has been progress made, which is very welcome. However, there are a whole lot of other services where there is a similar absence of ensuring people are looked after.
I recently spoke to the mother of a young man who has very serious difficulties with drug addiction and addiction problems in general. He has been diagnosed with mental health issues which are probably a consequence of his past drug abuse. When he goes into the service, he gets looked after for a short period of time and then he is put back into the community in a rural house in the middle of nowhere. He has no backup there. There is a little piece missing here in the service. That piece is to provide for people like that, who probably do not need to be in a long-term psychiatric institution but, at the same time, are not well enough to go out and live on their own in the community. I am referring to a type of sheltered accommodation that was available in the past, up to 15 or 20 years ago. However, with the drive to put everyone out into the community, that was taken away. That has been a real problem and needs to be re-examined. Not just where I am in the north west, in Sligo and north Leitrim, but across the country I am sure one will hear similar reports of people who unfortunately find themselves in this gap where there is no service for them, other than perhaps a mental health nurse calling once or twice a week. That is just not enough, given the state of mind people in this situation may be in. They have families who are very concerned and worried about them. I ask the Minister of State to look at that issue in particular.
On the question of what needs to be done around positive mental health, I am thinking of the responsibility of the social media platforms from which many young people get their lead in life and where they do much of their communication. What we would normally have done in the past by getting together and talking to people, they now do online on their phones. While that may be a negative in some senses, perhaps we can try to find a way of turning it into a positive. There could be messages going out through those platforms which would reinforce people's positive mental health and do something to reaffirm their value in the world and in life in general. We must examine how the Government can work with these platforms which have got very bad press, and deservedly so in many cases. There is an opportunity here for them to do something to redress that. The Government should try to engage with them and try to make progress in respect of that.