Sinn Fein launches policy proposals on mental health

Sinn Fein has laid out proposals to tackle issues surrounding access to mental health services.

Party president Mary Lou McDonald, along with Pat Buckley, General Election candidate for Cork East launched the proposals on Thursday, an issue which Mr Buckley, the party’s former mental health spokesman, says is an issue “close to his heart”.

“Mental health is everybody’s business,” Ms McDonald said.

“There was a time this topic was stigmatised, let’s face it, and it’s important we speak more openly and particularly so that young people feel liberated to come forward.

“Mental health is one of the areas where there is cross party consensus for quite some time.

“When A Vision for Change (a strategy document which sets out the direction for Mental Health Services in Ireland) was published everybody agreed it was the right plan and people still agree but unfortunately it hasn’t been resourced.

“So at the core of these proposals is the absolute need to fund Vision For Change.”

Ms McDonald said her party would mainly concentrate on three areas, which includes, 24 hour out-of-hours services for “people who are unwell and particular people with suicidal ideation”.

“The current position is that very often very sick people present at crowded accident and emergency departments.

“There is no worse place for someone who is in distress, particularly suicidal, in a very crowded and stressed environment,” she said.

“People have left accident and emergency and have come to harm afterwards, so it’s very important when someone is in distress that they can have access to services.”

Another issue is that of dual diagnosis, which can see people with addiction issues turned away on the basis that they also have mental health issue.

“Life experience tells us that addiction and metal health issues go hand in hand,” Ms McDonald added.

“Our No Wrong Door policy means that you present as a human being and you’re treated holistically, and you’re not turned away from services because of either issue.

“There is understanding within the HSE that their protocols have to change and their way of working has to change, but we’re not there yet by a long run,” Ms McDonald said.

The third issue concentrated on is that of education and awareness.

“We have full costing for all of the items, as well as an additional spend of 200m euro per annum over the lifetime of government,” Ms McDonald said.

“That’s what’s needed to make sure these plans are implemented.

“Certain legislative changes have to happen for the rights of person detained to have their rights upheld, and their right to advocacy.

“This is a big issue for lots of people who have been unwell, many of whom have recovered and when you talk to them and they say there is a sense of powerlessness while within the system, and we should invest in independence advocacy for those who are suffering with mental illness.”

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