Failure of Wexford TDs to attend meeting on mental health is 'not acceptable'
The failure of Wexford's five TDs and most councillors to attend a recent meeting on mental health chaired by Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald is 'not good enough' according to mental health activist Colette Nolan.
The meeting in the Riverside Park Hotel saw local councillors, representatives from mental health groups and members of the public come together for a discussion on mental health. Though Colette said that there was a very good turnout, she said she was disappointed that none of Wexford's Oireachtas members showed up on the night.
'I don't think it's good enough that the TDs in our county who have been elected to serve the people didn't turn up to a public meeting,' she said. 'With recent cuts to mental health funding and the introduction of taxes to benefit the wealthy, perhaps they thought they would be bombarded with questions from members of the public.'
Several local Sinn Fein councillors attended the meeting including Cllr Johnny Mythen, Cllr Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin, Cllr Anthony Kelly, Cllr Mick Roche and Cllr Oisín O'Connell as well as Independents Cllr John O'Rourke and Cllr Davy Hynes, who was also there in his role as an addiction counsellor. Colette said that she is unsure why more local representatives didn't attend, suggesting that it may have been to do with the fact that Sinn Fein's McDonald was chairing it.
Along with Mary Lou McDonald, speaking on the night was Ray Cullen from Talk2Tom, Kate Mitchell from Mental Health Reform, Cllr Davy Hynes and Cllr Johnny Mythen. Colette extended an invitation to the HSE to send a representative to the meeting but received a response to say that the HSE was 'not in the position to attend'.
'In the meeting, we talked about how this is a real problem. Real people sat in that meeting and told us their problems. Mary Lou said that the issue just can't be ignored anymore. There has to be a real solution put in place for the people. It just can't be put on the backburner,' said Colette.
Despite the increase in awareness and discussion surrounding mental health and possible strategies, Colette is not hopeful that the current government is going to make any significant changes in the next 12 months.
'I was talking to Kate Mitchell from Mental Health Reform at that meeting and she said Ireland isn't even up to international standards in terms of mental health services at the moment,' she added.
Though she doesn't envision change in the next 12 months at government level, Colette does believe that these public meetings make a difference.
'There is a benefit in holding these meetings. It encourages members of the public to think about their own mental health and say "look, we are being wronged here",' she said.
Colette said that many people brought up the fact that if someone is in crisis and needs to gain access to mental health services in Enniscorthy, they are often told that they need a referral letter from their doctor.
'A referral letter can take up to two weeks to get. This is not acceptable if you are in crisis,' she said.
The difficulty in accessing a detox programme was another issue raised according to Colette, who said that often people do not receive the appropriate treatment until they have committed a crime and gone to prison.