Written answers

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Department of Health

Mental Health Services

Photo of Pat BuckleyPat Buckley (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

3308. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to provide additional post-lockdown mental health supports to assist persons who suffered with isolation and other negative effects during this difficult period as well as those who are grieving the loss of loved ones or dealing with significant health impact from Covid-19 infection. [41315/21]

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

While there is no doubt that Covid-19 has posed significant challenges, including isolation, bereavement, anxiety and loss of income and work for many, we do not yet fully understand the impact of Covid-19 on mental health and subsequent demand on services. A negative mental health outcome from the pandemic is not inevitable, if we respond in a cohesive manner.

Since the pandemic started, mental health services have responded rapidly, continuing to deliver supports in the safest possible way throughout the country. The HSE and the Department continue to plan for any surge in demand for mental health services and supports as it arises. The HSE have service surge capacity plans in place, including access to acute beds in the private sector.

The HSE has a range of proactive responses for any rise in mental health service needs. In 2020, an additional €2.2 million was allocated to develop telehealth and psychosocial responses to Covid-19.

Telehealth services are now fully established including YourMentalHealth.ie, which offers a wealth of information on mental health supports and coping with difficult situations during Covid-19; the information line 1800 111 888, the crisis textline, 50808 and NGO online supports such as MyMind, Turn2Me, Jigsaw and many others. ALONE, in collaboration with the Department of Health and HSE, is also running a national support line which is open Monday to Friday, 8am-8pm at 0818 222 024.

The HSE Psychosocial Framework, published in January 2021, builds on a range of supports introduced last year in response to Covid-19, including self-help and psychological first aid supports for staff. The Framework acknowledges the impact of the pandemic on mental health in all areas of society and identifies priority groups, including health care workers and people bereaved due to Covid-19. The framework provides a cohesive, coordinated, consistent and collaborative whole-of-population approach to the provision of mental health services and supports across 5 key levels from mental health promotion to specialist supports.

I would also like to draw your attention to the Government well-being campaigns to promote physical and mental wellbeing in the safest possible ways. The Covid-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions have challenged society, especially in the area of human interaction and connectedness. As part of our response to these challenges, the Department of Health has provided guidance and support for people to manage both their physical and mental wellbeing and to stay connected. This guidance has been provided through public health information campaigns and through information networks including key organisations working with vulnerable people.

Following on from the “In This Together”, campaign, in November 2020 the Department of Health launched the “Keep Well” campaign, with €7 million allocated to support the delivery of a range of actions and support services.

This campaign encourages us all to do something that is good for us each day or week, like going for a walk, connecting safely with friends or family, engaging in a hobby or reaching out for the supports that we may need. By doing so, we are more likely to create balance, routine and resilience. The campaign is focused on five main themes, which include Minding your Mood and Staying Connected, which address challenges to mental wellbeing and isolation respectively.

Furthermore, it is envisaged that all aspects of mental health services will be improved and developed, through the implementation of the national mental health policy Sharing the Vision (launched June, 2020) and commitments set out in the HSE National Service Plan 2021. Sharing the Vision aims to enhance the provision of mental health services and supports across a broad continuum from mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention to acute and specialist mental health service delivery, during the period 2020-2030. The NIMC Steering Committee, tasked with overseeing the implementation of Sharing the Vision and chaired by Mr John Saunders, was established in December 2020. The work of the Steering Committee is progressing.

I secured an additional €50 million for mental health services in 2021, bringing the annual budget to in excess of €1.1 billion. €23 million of this additional funding is dedicated to commencing implementation of many of the short-term recommendations of Sharing the Vision while €15 million is allocated to address additional challenges posed by Covid-19.

Earlier this year, the Taoiseach announced additional funding for mental health for proposed cross-governmental and inter-agency initiatives to meet evolving demands for mental health arising from Covid-19, including those relating to young people. This will cover, for example, promoting positive mental health, increasing awareness of the wide range of supports available, and improving signposting to these services and supports. The Department of Health is at present progressing the details of this new initiative, including consultation with other relevant stakeholders in the health and education sectors.

I would like to assure the Deputy that I, along with the Government as a whole, remain fully committed to enhancing the provision of mental health services nationally.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.