The poor attendance in the Dáil (Ireland’s Parliament) statements hearing on mental health, on Tuesday night, drew anger from the Irish public, who took to Twitter to show their rage.
On the evening of April 26 the Rubberbandits, a Limerick comedy duo and advocates for mental health, tweeted the photo above showing very few politicians in attendance. They wrote “Here’s a photo of how many politicians turned up to speak about mental health in the Dáil today. There's ten people a week dying by suicide.”
Niall “Bressie” Breslin, a musician, TV personality and advocate also tweeted the screen-grab saying “This is the Dáil right now for mental health debate. Remember this view if we have another election.”
Although these figures were exaggerated early on, only 63 out of 158 members of the Dáil (39.8%) were in attendance with 33 members making contributing statements.
The public’s frustration comes after major cuts to mental health services were announced last week. The Irish government said it would be diverting €12 million to other areas of the health service. The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar was present for the start of the statements but left during the session.
According to Aware, a charity which provides “depression support,” more than one in 10 people in Ireland are affected by depression and the charity Pieta House has reported that 10 people in Ireland, an island of just 4.595 million people, commit suicide each week. Suicide rates among young men and women in Ireland are strikingly high when compared to international figures.
Following the poor attendance at the Dáil hearing on Tuesday night the Irish public took to Twitter with hundreds of angry tweets with the hashtag “IAmAReason.”
#IAmAReason because no-one should have to struggle alone, unsupported & dependent solely upon their own resilience. We can & must do better.— Colm O'Gorman (@Colmogorman) April 26, 2016
DAILL-CHEO means a thick mist (lit. blinding mist), or depression of spirits.
Sometimes you can't find your way out alone. #IAmAReason— Dinneen's Dictionary (@AnDuinnineach) April 27, 2016
I wholeheartedly cannot express how disgusted I am at our government, or lack there of. They make me feel so ashamed and lost. #IAmAReason— Leanne Woodfull (@LeanneWoodfull) April 26, 2016
Today's empty Dáil giving powerful visibility to immense stigma still engulfing this aspect of the human experience pic.twitter.com/TKuKrGV6eR— Conor Cusack (@Conor14Cusack) April 26, 2016
Cusack, a former Cork hurling star and mental health advocate, will be joining the Union of Students in Ireland and the Mental Health Reform at a demonstration outside the Dail on Thursday.
Read Conor Cusacks article: Dealing with depression starts with the first step, talking and reaching out for helpIrish Times about how he had become a “sacramental fireman” going from one crisis to another. The County Laois priest, said in a radio interview, that within a month he had presided over seven young men’s funerals who had taken their own lives.
The curate, based in Portlaoise, said “The whole thing is about talking and yet it’s so difficult to talk.
“I do think people are quite alone in Irish society.
“My fear would be as a pastor working on the ground that I could become desensitized to the horrific reality that people are taking their lives in such numbers.”
Speaking to RTÉ’s Liveline Byrne commented on the fact that suicide is not solely a concern for young men but also for young women and older people. He pointed out that the recent cases included people in their early 20s and 50s.
He said “In the past when I was celebrating suicide Masses, the majority would be young men. Now, in terms of gender, it’s both male and female. It’s middle-aged men and more mature women.”
The priest, who is a chaplain in two secondary schools and at Portlaoise Hospital, said suicide for him is a weekly occurrence.
Byrne said “It’s something that we can’t forget is happening in society.”
The priest also spoke of the “the huge void in people’s lives, the huge bereavement” cause by suicide.
“People who carry the cross of mental illness - while we are progressing as a society there is a certain stigma to it. I would say it’s absolutely OK not to be OK.”
He also said that while mental health support can successfully address people’s problems but that not everyone can afford a private counselor.
Speaking to the IrishIndependent.ie a mother, Ciara O'Brien, who suffered from Post Natal Depression, spoke about the disappointment she felt at the poor attendance in the Dail on Tuesday night and also divulged that she and her partner spent $452.80 (400) a month on private therapy fees.
She had been placed on a public waiting list in 2014 for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and still hasn't received an appointment.
However, as Cusack tweeted:
The most damning indictment of our HSE 'Mental Health' services is that each helpline suggested at end of programme is a charity #cblive— Conor Cusack (@Conor14Cusack) April 25, 2016