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Make mental health your priority for General Election 2020

This General Election let your local politicians know that mental health matters to you


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in news


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The upcoming vote in the General Election gives us the opportunity to create a Government that will make sure that mental health is given the priority it deserves to improve services and supports for everyone in Ireland. As young voters it is important for us to ask our local candidates to pledge to improve mental health services and supports and to hold them accountable.

How can I help make mental health a priority in Ireland?

We know that Ireland’s mental health services, especially child and adolescent services, have suffered from years of significant under-investment, staffing shortages and access difficulties.

Currently:

  • Almost 10% of the Irish population over age 15 has a ‘probable mental health problem’ at any one time
  • Almost 20% of young people aged 19-24 years having had a mental health disorder and 15% of children aged 11-13 years also having experienced a mental health disorder
  • Young Irish women are experiencing the highest levels of moderate to severe symptoms of depression compared to the EU average
  • Ireland has the second highest suicide rate in Europe for young people aged 15-19

Mental health has not been a priority for our previous governments and the impact of this is seen in Ireland’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) across the country:

  • In 2008, there were 10,476 (WTE) staff in mental health services yet today there are just 9,823
  • Referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) increased by over 40% from 2011 to 2019
  • The waiting list for a first appointment with CAMHS has remained in or around 2,000 children since at least 2016.

How should I speak to my local politicians about mental health?

It is really important to ask the electoral candidates in your constituency how they will address the crisis in CAMHS and to explain to them some of the key was the crisis can be addressed.

Some useful questions you could ask include:

  • What kind of commitments by election candidates would make a difference?
  • What are the key issues for you, as someone who care about the mental health of every child and young person in Ireland?

Mental Health Reform's Mental Health Manifesto 

This Mental Health Manifesto is a useful resource to learn more about the issues in Ireland’s mental health services. It includes points to consider when choosing who you are voting for in the General Election 2020.

There are three main pillars of the Mental Health Manifesto which need to be addressed by the next Government in order to improve mental health services and supports for everyone.

Invest in Ireland’s mental health services

Ireland’s mental health budget must move from the current 6% to at least 10% of the overall health budget, with incremental improvement every year.

Make mental health services accessible 24/7 

A mental health crisis can happen at any time, day or night. Almost all Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services only open Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM. This means that if a child or young person encounters a mental health crisis in the evening or the weekend, one of the only options they or their parent has is to go to an Emergency Department (A&E) and wait, sometimes for 8-10 hours or more for help. Everybody knows that an Emergency Department is an inappropriate environment for a child in acute distress.

Update Ireland’s mental health law to protect people’s human rights

Ireland current mental health law does not adequately protect people’s rights when they are in hospital for their mental health, especially the rights of children and young people. 

Specifically:

  • There are no Guiding Principles in our laws for children
  • People aged 16 and 17 years old are not allowed to consent or refuse mental health care (however, they can make physical, dental and surgical healthcare decisions)
  • Voluntary patients do not have the basic rights to information or advocacy

What can you do?

  • Find out more about the Mental Health Manifesto
  • Ask candidates the what they will do to improve mental health 
  • Tag candidates in online posts and ask for their pledge to make mental health a political priority
  • The people of Ireland care about mental health. It’s time for candidates to show that they are listening.

Together, we can work to improve mental health services and supports for everyone in Ireland.

This content has been provided by Mental Health Reform, find out more at mentalhealthreform.ie.

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Published Jan­u­ary 27th2020
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.
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