Speech on Mental Health and the Arts

Picture Conor McCabe PhotographyThank you Leas Ceann Comhairle,

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this very important issue of ‘Mental Health’.

For too long now, mental health services have suffered because of the outgoing Government’s failure to allocate the resources necessary to ensure a functioning health service.  Despite promising to protect funding for mental health, Fine Gael and Labour have delayed funding allocations and instead diverted money to other areas when crises have emerged.

The HSE’s 2016 Service Plan claimed to have set aside €35m for mental health services, however it failed to outline how and where this money would be spent.The document merely contained vague references to “further specific initiatives.

Mental health issues are bordering on a national emergency.  It is disgraceful that voluntary organisations and charities are funding essential services, which should be provided by the State.  We need to properly fund our mental health services – and stop this practice of raiding the budget every time there is a shortfall in other areas.  Mental health services need to be acknowledged as being as important, if not more important as other sections of the healthcare system.

As part of Fianna Fáil’s Confidence and Supply arrangement with Fine Gael, we have secured a promise that the new Government will fully implement all the elements of “A Vision for Change”.  In our manifesto we allocated €187m for increased spending on mental health and will continue to work towards ensuring that target is achieved.

We need to start prioritising mental health. This new Government cannot continue to ignore the significant challenges that need to be addressed in the mental health sector and it must begin by securing a workable budget which is properly ring-fenced to ensure that services are enhanced and improved.

As a priority we need to engage and fully appreciate the role the Arts has to play in this very important issue. Arts and mental health has the potential and already is in some parts of the country, to embrace a range of arts practices occurring primarily in healthcare settings, which bring together the skills and priorities of both arts and health professionals. This approach will promote health and wellbeing by improving the quality of life and cultural access in healthcare settings.

Arts and mental health can involve all artforms, and incorporate a variety of approaches.

By engaging the Arts with mental health services we can facilitate mental health service users to participate fully in the cultural life of their community. We can challenge the stigma faced by service users, we can enhance the healthcare working environment and we can promote the value of the arts within the mental healthcare.

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