Morris calls for parity of esteem between mental health services and physical health Services
The past number of weeks has seen an incredible public participation into promoting the cause of mental health. This culminated with the ‘Darkness into Light’ walks held all over the country and indeed world.
This weekend, thousands of people, young and old participated. During the same timeframe, and under the cover of Government talks, the acting Minister for Health Leo Varadkar replicated what every other Minister for health has presided over for the last three governments, when they diverted much needed millions of euro worth of funding that was originally allocated to mental health services, instead to Physical health services.
This cynically proves that mental health services is the Cinderella of our health services.
I feel that mental health is valued well below physical health, and I further believe that if we are to be serious about tackling mental health issues we need ‘parity of esteem’ for mental health.
We need action not words.
It’s about putting funding, commissioning, and training on a par with physical health, if we are to change the experience for people who require help with mental health issues.
The programme of austerity, so keenly inflicted on the people of Tipperary by Fine Gael and Labour, has caused untold damage to the mental health of the people of Tipperary. During this same time, Fine Gael and labor closed the only available 24 hour facility which catered to people with mental health issues, our hospital, which previously provided help and respite when sought and needed. This, in turn, has led to a serious increase in the number of people with mental health issues and has forced many to become homeless, callously discarded with no support or safety net.
I stated clearly, on the pre-election Vincent Browne show, held in Clonmel, that “mental health issues do not fit into the 9 to 5 schedule,” which this outgoing Government have reduced us to in Tipperary. ‘Parity of esteem’ is about tackling and ending the stigma and prejudice within the H.S.E.
A prejudice, which prevents people with serious mental health problems obtaining treatment with the same vigour and empathy they would receive if they had a physical illness such as heart disease. If a person falls down on the street, and breaks a leg, they get an ambulance, but if someone suffers an acute psychotic episode, they more than likely get arrested. This means that people with severe mental health issues get padded cells, not the necessary hospital care and treatment.
People with mental health issues have a 10 to 15 year shorter life expectancy than average.
This grim statistic has not changed since the 1950s. This has to change.
Also, treating mental health issues just with drugs is like treating people with Alcohol addiction with Heroin. It cannot be the only option. Too many people’s lives are medically neutered and they are sentenced to walking around like zombies due to over medication. Their lives become a hazy fog, ruined from over medicating them, when prevention is always better than cure.
75 percent of chronic mental health problems start before the age of 18 and yet only a quarter of children up the age of 15 get any medical help from any services.
As someone who has personal experience with mental health illness, I intend to dedicate my political life’s work to ensuring ‘parity of esteem’ for mental health services and patients in need. I intend to take strong action on this issue so expect to hear from me regularly from now on, loud and clear.
After all actions are stronger than words.
Yours sincerely Cllr. Séamie Morris