I have noticed one issue that seems to have been forgotten when the party leaders debated in NUIG last Monday is the epidemic we have around mental health and suicide. There seems to be a reluctance in some quarters to talk about mental well being and issues we have amongst our younger generation, although not excusive to this generation.In June 2017 I contacted Minister Bruton (Education Minister at the time ) with the suggestion of including positive well being and mental health awareness into the school curriculum but not to increase the workload on teachers.
I suggested we take the brave step and create positions of employment that ensures all our secondary school children take part in well being classes and are prepared for life’s challenges when their time in school comes to an end. Unfortunately, I was advised that it was not on the agenda of the Government at that time.In recent years we have sadly lost so many to suicide here in Galway, something which has been replicated across the country.
There are several factors at play here which I believe many of which can be addressed with the political will to do so.I ask your readers who may have young children or grandchildren how often they are able to access a youth programme within the community? In many of our rural towns and villages these are non-existent and similar to the city only exist with the goodwill of local volunteers in places.
We must get back to a situation where activities such as sports, music, arts and others are put forward with adequate state funding to ensure our younger people are not led down a road of alcohol or drug abuse. As a councillor I have been able to secure funding for youth engagement programme which offers 16 – 21 year old’s an opportunity to take part in some of the above activities on a Friday and Saturday evening.
Whilst a very welcome project and one I am very proud to have delivered, I accept it is not enough and there are many more corners of the city and county that would benefit from such a programme.We have a generation well educated and ready to lead this country in all aspects of the private and public sector, in political and leadership roles and in communities but if we do not take drastic measures now to encourage a positive well being and have the conversations around mental health and suicide I fear we will regret it in the near future.
Another area we need to bring about drastic changes are the supports available to those with mental health difficulties. It is shameful that in the year 2020 we still do not have community-based supports for those in need. I have met many families who talk to me about teenagers who are waiting months for assessment within our health service. This is wrong. We must provide immediate support to anyone needing help but what the state have done is passed the book on this to the various charities to look after, again I believe this is wrong.
Sadly, we have seen several situations in Galway where a person may be talked down from one of the bridges on river Corrib. In many cases lives have thankfully been saved but the support thereafter is non-existent. I find it incredibly frustrating that a person in this frame of mind must access the required service through Accident & Emergency. We must have community supports available 24/7 for instances such as this.If elected, I will be willing to enter Government as I am a pro-active Independent willing to find solutions to the issues we face.
I am not an Independent asking for your vote so I can just sit in opposition and hold the Government to account. If elected, this issue of positive well being and educating the next generation in this area will be a red line issue for me. The issue of community supports available 24/7 will be a red line issue for me. The generation coming behind me need measures put in place by those of us elected to make those decisions now.
I am willing to make this issue a priority as it is one that affects every community throughout Ireland even if those at the very top of the political ladder choose not to talk about it.