Press Release

Minister O´Malley responds to Amnesty Report on mental health

Mr. Tim O´Malley, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for mental health, has responded to the publication today of an Amnesty International report on mental health services by highlighting the progress that has been achieved in the area in recent years.

“The Amnesty Report acknowledges the significant advances made in this country in the provision of community psychiatry, nursing services, community residences, day hospitals and day centres since the publication of the landmark 1984 report, Planning for the Future”, the Minister said. “In the period 1999 – 2002, an additional €70.7m was invested in the mental health services. In the current year, additional revenue funding of €7.6m will be provided for improvements in mental health services, to develop and expand community mental health services, to increase child and adolescent services, to expand the old age psychiatry services, to provide liaison psychiatry services in general hospitals and to enhance the support provided to voluntary agencies.”

Approximately €190m capital is being provided over the lifetime of the National Development Plan to fund the development of acute psychiatric units linked to general hospitals, as a replacement of services previously provided in psychiatric hospitals. Substantial progress has already been made. There are now eighteen general hospital psychiatric units operational, a further three units will become available to their mental health services in the near future, two are under construction and several others are at various stages of planning. In relation to community residences, there are approximately 400 community psychiatric residences in the country providing over 3,000 places. This compares to 111 residences, providing less than 1,000 places in 1984. In relation to day hospitals/day centres, there are approximately 200 providing over 3,500 places. This compares with 39 such centers providing approximately 1,200 places in 1984.

The Amnesty Report also acknowledges the funding which is being made available by Government to support groups and organisations such as Schizophrenia Ireland, Mental Health Ireland, GROW and Aware to heighten awareness and develop support services for service users and carers.

“In describing the shortcomings and deficiencies of the existing mental health services, this Report has highlighted the scale of the challenge facing both Government and Irish society as a whole, in seeking to reduce the stigma and apathy traditionally associated with mental illness”, the Minister stated.

“The new Mental Health Commission, established in April of last year under the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 2001, has an important role to play in improving the quality of our mental health services. The primary functions of the Commission are to promote and foster high standards and good practices in the delivery of mental health services and to ensure that the interests of detained persons are protected. The Mental Health Commission is now working, along with officials from my Department, to put in place the structures required for its new role.”

“I am committed to improving the quality of care and service delivery in the mental health services and I will be seeking additional resources for this purpose during my term of office as Minister of State”, the Minister added.

The Minister particularly welcomed the Report´s recommendation for a comprehensive review of the mental health services, which reflects a commitment in the Health Strategy, Quality and Fairness, to the development of a new National Policy Framework on mental health. Work on this review is expected to commence later this year.