Deputy Declan Breathnach: Deirtear sa seanfhocal “is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte” – your health is your wealth – but I have found that it is fast becoming “Your mental health is your wealth”.  This is indicative of the crisis we are in with regard to recognising the issue.  I commend Deputy James Browne’s Bill for the equal status of mental health with physical health.

I shall not go through all of the various recommendations in A Vision for Change and the various programmes that have been broadcast on RTÉ recently.  Suffice to say Ireland has a dark history in the context of mental health and how we look after our young and old in that department.

We need to end the discrimination and stigma of mental health illness to ensure that patients have access to quality
healthcare and that equal resources are given to the mental health system as are given for physical health well-being.

It is absolutely shocking that there are cases where adults are being kept in prisons because there are no beds for them in the Central Mental Hospital.  People with mental health problems are being failed by this Government and by successive Governments.  Imagine what it is like for the families of those being treated in such a way.  A physically ill patient would not be held in prison-like circumstances while waiting on a bed, so this should not happen to a person who has a mental illness.  We are living in a first-world country where patients should expect a high level of healthcare for physical and mental health.

The Bill will give a statutory basis to the acknowledgement that mental health is on parity with physical health.  This parity of esteem will shift the mindsets of those who thought it acceptable to hold mentally ill patients in difficult circumstances, or those who think that a mental health illness is not as urgent or does not deserve the same level of care as a physical illness.  I commend the Bill.

From the figures we can see the reduction in child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, and a reduction in the availability of services.  Sometimes it feels as though we are going backwards instead of forwards.  I hope we can improve the situation for people who are suffering and their families.