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Fitness & Health

16th Jan 2018

Irish mental health services have made “little progress” in last 10 years, says new international study

Michael Lanigan

Austerity measures have remained a major obstacle to our national services.

A new study on the state of mental health services across Europe has criticised Ireland’s current services for its lack of progress in the last 10 years.

Mental Health Europe‘s report, ‘Mapping and Understanding Exclusion in Europe’ analysed the mental health systems, human rights violations and reforms in 36 countries, in order to create a fuller picture of the “tens of thousands of people with mental health problems” who currently live in psychiatric or other institutions today.

“At least 264,000 people live under full guardianship, isolated from society and deprived of the right to make choices which make up our everyday rights”, the paper states.

With regards to Ireland, the report says that the 2006 national mental health reform plan, Vision for Change, was “ambitious”, “but austerity measures and lack of clear policy guidance has resulted in very little progress”.

The major issues here, the report says, were staff shortages and a lack of funding that severely limited services, including those already in existence.

“Since the economic crisis and following austerity policies, staff in mental health services has dropped from 10,476 (2008) to 8,967 (2014) whole-time equivalents, putting even existing services at risk”, the report says.

The study also found that the number of involuntary admissions into forced treatment had risen from 46.5 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013 to 52.6 per 100,000 in 2016.

The other challenge, it points out, is the fact that 90% of mental health difficulties are handled in the primary healthcare system, but there was a clear “lack of specialist knowledge and long waiting times”, which make the system “unsatisfactory” for its users.

In order to compile these results, Mental Health Europe used reports by Mental Health Ireland, the HSE, the Health Research Board and the Mental Health Commission.

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