CORK campaigners have expressed disappointment at the scale of increases in mental health spending announced in the budget.
The Government has announced an increase of €58m in spending on mental health, incorporating €14m to continue the increased provision of emergency placements in mental health, with further funding to ensure continued progress towards its Sharing the Vision objectives.
However, Cork mental health advocates have criticised the scale of that increased funding, saying it does not go far enough.
Daragh Fleming, who is a mental health advocate working in communications with the charity A Lust For Life, said the percentage of Ireland’s budget spend on mental health was far behind the spend recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Obviously, the Government has added more money, which could be seen as a step in the right direction, but the percentage of the budget spent on mental health has actually decreased from 5.6% to 5.1%,” said Mr Fleming.
“The WHO recommends a 10% budget spend on mental health from the health budget so we’re really not moving in the right direction.”
Mr Fleming, who is an ambassador for this year’s Green Ribbon challenge to raise awareness of mental health, said many campaigners were disappointed in the scale of the increased spend.
“The charity Mental Health Reform has petitioned for an increase in spending on mental health of €100m, and we’ve missed that by €42m,” he said.
“At a time of greater awareness than ever of mental health, the Government really isn’t sending the right message of saying they care about mental health because if they did that, they’d meet the WHO 10% requirement.”
Joe D’alton, a founder and director of Cork charity Shine A Light Suicide and Mental Health Awareness, said the existing budget was already far below the international average.
“While an extra €58m in spending is no doubt welcome, it’s simply not enough,” said Mr D’alton.
“It might sound like a lot of money, but really you’re only sticking your finger in the dam, because there’s a huge crisis, and what we needed to hear was how many extra psychiatrists and psychologists they were going to hire, because there are huge vacancies there and they are not being filled.
“People with special needs are in desperate need of counselling and that need is simply going unaddressed.
“There is a huge gap there for people with special needs, ad they are simply not being looked after.”
Helen Dinan, who is also a director of Shine A Light, said it would be crucially important to see how the extra funding would be allocated across the different providers of mental health supports, and whether additional services would be easily accessible for the people who most need those supports.
“It sounds great, the €58m, but how long is it going to last, where is it going to go, is there a long-term plan?” asked Ms Dinan.
“The big thing is going to be how proactive this budget increase may or may not prove to be, or whether it is reactive and actually really only intended to band-aid the issues that we do have.”