By Mary Minihane, Irish Times
A MILLWARD Brown Lansdowne survey of TDs for the Mental Health Reform lobby group has found 50 per cent of deputies believe the State needs to increase staffing levels in mental health services.
The poll found 72 per cent of TDs think the State should prioritise mental health by increasing its budget in that area over the next three years, while 68 per cent said the physical conditions of State institutional buildings should be a priority of any strategy.
Just 18 per cent thought the State currently provided adequate support for people with mental health issues within their community, according to the confidential survey. Attempts were made to contact all 165 TDs, with 74 participating.
Four out of five TDs told the polling company they believed the importance of mental health as a policy issue had increased over the past three years.
The main reasons given for this were “greater public awareness” of the issue, as well as “increased stress due to the economic climate”.
Deputies were also asked how often the issue of mental health had come up on the doorsteps when they were canvassing ahead of the general election in February.
More than 80 per cent said the issue had come up sometimes, frequently or very often; while almost 90 per cent said the issue was raised in constituency clinics.
The director of Mental Health Reform, Orla Barry, called on TDs to ensure the implementation of the Government’s mental health policy, A Vision for Change (AVFC).
“TDs are clearly aware that mental health issues are best treated within the community and recognise that this is not yet happening,” Ms Barry said.
“The HSE mental health staffing level that was in place at the start of 2011 must be held and implementation of AVFC must continue to make up for lost time in mental health.”