The quality of Mental Health in Tipperary has severely deteriorated in recent years, particularly amongst those without any access to services. In 2019, Tipperary had the highest rate of suicide in the country, outside of Dublin. This shocking statistic has forced local campaigners, advocates and representatives alike to work around the clock to help improve the situation.
St. Michaels Hospital Closure in Clonmel
It is eight years now since St Michaels Psychiatric hospital was closed in Clonmel. The reason for the closure remains a mystery to many local people without anybody knowing the full reasoning behind the closure. We do know that the closure has left people with a lack of access to a local service with people travelling as far as Ennis and Limerick to be seen by a Mental Health Professional. This is, of course, if they are not turned away due to waiting lists. I spoke to a young person recently who sought help locally and was told he could be waiting up to six months before being seen. This is simply too long and the person in question needed to be seen immediately. The solution that day was – get on with it.
Mental Health Reform is seeking an additional €80m in funding in Budget 2020. This simply means absolutely nothing to the people of Tipperary who are being affected by Mental Health related issues day in, day out. When we hear of funding in the millions, it keeps us quiet for a while because the average person does not know the context of this funding and it sounds like it is adequate. Unfortunately, it is not. Thurles was announced as the new hub for JIGSAW, an organisation focused on younger people’s mental health. Whilst this news is welcomed, there is still zero access to services for adults in Tipperary. For a county of this size and for an aspect of our health that is so important, it is simply not good enough.
But is there any sign of change?
Unfortunately, despite local efforts of representatives and advocates alike, whilst there has been meetings with Ministers for Mental Health, there is no sign of the re-opening of St Michaels Mental Health Facility. People are bombarded on social media every day about being open about their Mental Health, about speaking to someone, being told that it is okay not to be okay. However, when they reach out for the help, it simply is not there. It is than too late for some people and individuals and their families are torn apart as a result.
What does the future hold for mental health in Tipperary?
This is the question that it on the front of everyone’s mind. At the moment, it really is impossible to say. Whilst the likelihood of a reopening of St Michaels is highly unlikely in the near future, the problem has been well and truly heard by now – both amongst ourselves and up as far as Leinster House. The policy makers and decision makers are acutely aware of the mental health crisis in Tipperary.