Waterford has ‘mountain to climb’ to meet increased demand for mental health services post Covid-19 – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that Waterford has ‘a mountain to climb’ in order to meet increased demand for mental health services due to underinvestment by successive governments in mental health services.  He made the comments as he lent his support to calls from Alone and Samaritans for greater mental health supports after the Covid-19 pandemic. 

McGuinness said:

“There should be no half measures when it comes to mental health. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has only increased pressures on already under-resourced mental health services. The failure to adequately resource mental health services in Waterford over the last decade or more means that we have a mountain to climb in responding to the very really need for supports and services. 

“Samaritans Ireland and Alone have predicted a huge demand post-pandemic for mental health supports. The pandemic has brought grief, anxiety, isolation, domestic abuse, financial difficulty and job insecurity to so many people and will undoubtedly have had a negative impact on mental health across the spectrum. Our community based mental health and addiction services, which were already bursting at the seams pre-Covid, are now seeing an unprecedented demand on their services.

“Too many people have fallen through the cracks of mental health services over the past fifteen years. The fear is that, post-Covid, these gaps will become wider and more people will be left without the services that they desperately need. The failure of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led governments to implement ‘A Vision for Change’ or to provide adequate resources for mental health does not bode well for the future. Its successor document, ’Sharing a Vision’, which was published this summer, was not costed and its unclear what additional resources, if any, will be allocated to implement its recommendations. 

“Last year I raised the issue of the Department of Psychiatry at UHW being found to be ‘high risk’ and non-compliant with regulations by the Mental Health Commission. I also stood with psychiatric nurses protesting the unsafe and inhumane conditions they and their patients are subjected too. Waterford’s mental health service – including psychiatry, day centres and community mental health nursing – is operating at about two-thirds of the appropriate staffing levels. There are approximately 50 vacancies that remain unfilled.

“We need a fully integrated mental health service that provides people with the care they need when they need it right across the continuum of care, starting with prevention and early intervention.

“As highlighted today by Samaritans Ireland and Alone, we are on the verge of a mental health tsunami post-Covid-19 with existing mental health services inundated with calls for help. The new Minister needs to put in provisions to meet this expected demand.

“Time will tell whether this Government has the political will to implement real changes in how mental health services are provided. Unless there is a real ambition, matched with real and adequate resources, then ‘Sharing the Vision’ will be left to gather dust on a shelf, while those in need suffer the cost.”