Fiona Coyle is the CEO of Mental Health Reform, Ireland which is the leading national coalition of mental health organisations in Ireland. Fiona has extensive experience working in national and international civil society organisations, specialising in strategic and political planning and implementing multi stakeholder advocacy. 

Since the start of COVID-19, and in particular in the more recent months, we have been hearing from our Taosieach, Tanaiste, various ministers, and TDs across the Dáil on the importance of protecting the nations mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The acknowledgment on the importance of mental health is welcome, however these words will be quickly rendered meaningless unless followed by action. The upcoming Budget 2021 provides the ideal opportunity. Mental Health Reform along with our 75 member organisations call on the Government to invest additional funding of €80M in our mental health services in Budget 2021.

Even before the pandemic, thousands of people were struggling to access the basic mental health supports they need, when they need them. Now in 2021, we find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, with a mental health system that is facing new demands and which is historically under-resourced.

Successive Governments have failed to provide adequate resources for Ireland’s mental health services, resulting in serious underdeveloped over many decades. The existing budgets are not increased year on year to cover inflation and keep existing service levels in place. Therefore, while the government will argue that they have increased investment the reality is when the cost of existing services are covered (barely!) there is little left to invest in the much needed new services.

We know that there is broad public support to invest in Mental Health services. A collaborative research between Mental health reform and the Psychological research consortium (C19PRC) give us an insight into the views of the general population towards the Government’s response to the mental health impact. It clearly showed that there is broad support for greater action from Government and its agencies to manage the mental health impact of the pandemic. Specifically, there was broad support for providing additional resources to mental health services providers. However, less than one in four agreed that the Government has done enough to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, again indicating a perceived need for greater action. Read more about this study here.

Ireland’s mental health services need to be prioritised and placed at the very heart of COVID-19 recovery planning. This includes planning underway to provide support for health services over a very challenging Winter period. It is clear that without significant investment in Budget 2021, thousands of adults and children across Ireland will not get timely access to the mental health services and supports that the need. This could risk putting Ireland on track for a serious public mental health crisis, as warned by both the UN and the WHO. Mental Health Reform along with our 75 member organisations call on the Government to invest additional funding of €80M in our mental health services in Budget 2021.

This includes:

€30M to maintain existing levels of services (ELS); and
€50M to be used exclusively for developing our services to deal with the new challenges faced.

Find out more about the Mental Health Budget 2021 campaign and how to get involved here.