Sunday, 11 November 2012

Mental health distress rampant, says Minister

Mental health distress rampant, says Minister


PAUL CULLEN, Health Correspondent
Mental health distress is rampant in Ireland, Minister for Health James Reilly said yesterday, when speaking for the first time about the suicide of a medical colleague in north Dublin.

Dr Reilly told an Oireachtas committee he had attended two funerals in the past fortnight – of a GP and a pharmacist who had taken their own lives.

“I’m aware of others. And I’ve also had the sad experience of attending a friend’s funeral four years ago who took his own life and his son who did the same thing only a few months ago,” he told fellow TDs.

Dr Reilly told the health committee that mental health required huge attention and resources “but we have to make sure that the resources give the outcome needed”.

“It is terribly important that people are referred to people who are suitably qualified, because people who are not properly qualified can do terrible damage.”

Dr Reilly was responding to a call by his party colleague, Dan Neville, for counsellors and psychotherapists to be included within the scope of the Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill.

Mr Neville said there was extreme concern about the activities of under-qualified counsellors advising people with mental health problems. Some people were calling themselves counsellors after doing a weekend course, whereas others had studied to master’s level for four years.

The Minister has declined to include counsellors in the Bill as the educational standards governing courses are still being drawn up. However, he said the legislation allowed him to add the profession to the list of those subject to new rules by way of regulation at a later date.

Mr Neville claimed this could take up to 30 years to happen. “How many people will die by suicide in this time? How many people will have serious health problems because of wrong advice given by these people?” he asked.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher claimed “so-called, self-appointed counsellors are preying on communities”.

Dr Reilly said there were legal impediments to accepting the amendment proposed by Mr Neville, but he hoped to have the matter “done and dusted” by 2014. The Minister said he would talk to the Minister for Justice on the matter.

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