New politicians must tackle mental health issues

On Friday Irish citizens selected candidates they believe will deliver a better Galway and a better Europe. In voting against current Government parties, the people have translated their anger to the ballot box and said "enough".

It is no surprise. One wonders what sort of society we have when the former chairman of the Anglo Irish Bank, having exited bankruptcy owing some €147 million, wants the taxpayer to pay his estimated €1million legal fees - at the same time increasing numbers of workers are facing the prospect of losing their family homes, struggling to pay bills, and worst of all, losing all hope to live.

While our new politicians enter a public arena with understandable excitement in the hopes they can make a difference and deliver a better future, we in Galway mourn the loss of citizens for whom life was not so promising.

It is a shocking statistic that at least five lives have been lost to suicide in Galway in the last week, and it must be incumbent on new city and county councillors not only to tackle this issue at a local level and support mental health services, but push for a national policy across both public and private institutions.

People with mental illness deserve the same standards of access, treatment, and understanding as those with a physical illness, and it is concerning that the Health and Safety Authority has deemed UCHG's acute mental health unit as unsafe for workers -with obvious implications for patients. While there are a number of charities throughout Galway and Ireland doing such good work, there is no national umbrella to co-ordinate these efforts. One of those charities is campaigning for a Suicide Prevention Authority, similar to that of the Road Safety Authority that could head a shift in attitudes to mental health and co-ordinate and regulate all charities involved in suicide prevention, mental health and related fields.

According to the official Garda statistics, so far this year there have been some 22 suicides recorded in Galway, compared to 31 last year. It is a frightening figure, and while local voluntary support groups are to be congratulated for keeping mental health at the forefront, it is time the politicians tackled the issue head on.

Linley MacKenzie

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