The prevalence of mental health problems among adults and children in Ireland is worryingly high and the Government needs to significantly increase funding in this area as part of Budget 2017.
The call has come from the Oireachtas Group on Mental Health ahead of next week's Budget. It noted that in Budget 2016, the total allocation for mental health amounted to just 6.4% of the entire health budget.
According to the group, this is lower than is recommended in Irish mental health policy and is also lower than in many other countries. For example, in the UK, mental health funding makes up 13% of its overall health budget.
The group acknowledged that mental health services are under intense pressure as a result of continued under-funding over the years and increased demand. However, this high demand is unlikely to decrease, given the high prevalence of mental health problems among the Irish population.
A survey by Healthy Ireland suggested that at any given time, 9% of the population over the age of 15 has a ‘probable mental health problem'. This equates to around 325,000 people.
Furthermore, some 15% of 11-13-year-olds will also experience a mental health disorder.
As a result, services have become over-stretched. For example, the number of referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) jumped by more than 50% between 2011 and 2014.
Yet despite this demand, staffing levels have remained ‘critically low' according to the Oireachtas group. Meanwhile, 10 years on from the publication of the national mental health policy, A Vision for Change, many of its recommendations have not been carried out.
The group has highlighted a number of areas that needed urgent investment, including:
-Community mental health services should be available in every community in the country on a 24/7 basis
-Access to talking therapies should be increased
-Staffing levels should be significantly increased in a number of areas, such as CAMHS.
The Oireachtas Group on Mental Health is made up of seven members, including Senator Frances Black (Independent), Deputy Tom Neville (Fine Gael) and Deputy Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Fein).
Budget 2017 will be announced on October 11.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.