Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Helen McEntee, speaking this week in Dáil Éireann, has said that in order to successfully tackle mental health illness, we must treat it like any other chronic disease.
“Ireland is winning the war on cancer. Where only 45% of cancer patients survived in 1999, more than 60% of patients survive cancer today.
“We’re succeeding in tackling cancer because we have taken the approach that prevention is better than cure. There is now a focus on early diagnosis and we have created centres of excellence. Irish society has also addressed the stigma around cancer: We stopped saying ‘the bad thing; the big C’, and we started to talk openly about cancer. The same approach is needed to tackle mental illness.
“Like cancer, it’s easier to prevent mental illness than to cure it. This approach is at the centre of ‘Connecting for Life – Ireland’s Suicide Prevention Strategy 2015-2020’.
“The Crea Centre, which offers massage, yoga, pilates, counselling, psychotherapy, shiatsu, reiki, reflexology and many more therapies opened in Drumbaragh, Kells last week. Therapies such as these can make a real difference for people suffering from mental ill health.
“Sport and fitness can also be extremely effective and I am proud that the Fine Gael-Labour Government invested €130 million in hard times in sports capital infrastructure around our country.
“Fine Gael increased the budget for mental health by €160 million between 2012 and 2016, an increase of 20%. The next government must continue with this upward investment. The focus of spending must be on early detection; extending counselling in Primary Care service to more people; integration of services; new capital developments for mental health and reducing admission rates to acute units.
“A significant cause of mental health problems remains the taboo around mental ill health causing people to feel isolated and to beat themselves up about perceived failings or inadequacies. I believe that solidarity is the key to overcoming mental health challenges.
“Events like the Cycle Against Suicide which began in Meath raises awareness of the help that is available for anyone battling depression, self-harm, at risk of suicide or those bereaved by suicide. I will be cycling the last two days and I will promote the approach of tackling mental health issues like any other chronic disease so that we can see real and significant progress.”