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'Surge in demand' for mental health services anticipated due to pandemic, committee warned

Two sittings took place today at 9am and 11.30am.

Image: Shutterstock/Robert Keane

Updated Jul 14th 2020, 2:19 PM

THERE COULD BE a “slow-burn effect” on mental health from the impact of coronavirus restrictions, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

The Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response met this morning to discuss the effect the pandemic has had on the delivery and demand of mental health services in Ireland.

Two separate sessions took place. The first at 9am heard from the CEO of youth mental health organisation Jigsaw, Dr Joseph Duffy, and the CEO of Mental Health Ireland, Martin Rogan. 

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy are hoping to investigate the measures being taken to tackle a pandemic-induced mental health crisis in Ireland. You can help fund them here.

Mental Health Ireland is a HSE-supported voluntary mental health organisation. 

Its CEO Martin Rogan warned TDs of a “slow-burn effect” from the impact of coronavirus restrictions.

“Sometimes when a person has a mental health issue they do their utmost to pretend they are fine,” he said.

“When some family members came together they discovered their partner, son or daughter was masking a significant mental health issue, be it anxiety, depression or perhaps an eating disorder.

“We can expect to see a slow-burn effect in terms of Covid. People cope in the immediacy of the here and now but when people look back they feel the dislocated effect from those certain routines that protected their health.”

The committee heard that demand for help had increased by 200%.

In a submission before the committee meeting, Rogan said: “Covid-19 has had an extraordinary impact on the mental health and quality of life of the Irish people.”

“The UN states that Covid-19 will generate an increased demand for mental health supports.

Many of these needs can be and are best met within an informal community context, but a surge in demand for anxiety, depression and PTSD services can be anticipated.

Kate Mitchell, senior policy and research officer at Mental Health Reform, said that a survey published today showed the increase in prevalence of mental health difficulties and increase in demand for support.

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“While the sector has been incredibly responsive, it doesn’t negate that there are challenges for these services,” she added.

Dr Joseph Duffy, chief executive of Jigsaw said there had been a 200% increase in the number of people seeking support through their mental health platforms.

Paul Longmore, acting clinical director of Jigsaw, said that some young people had found support within their family.

He said: “For some young people we have spoken to, their family situation has proven very supportive.

“We have seen the importance of a supportive adult in the life of a young person and some have been pleasantly surprised by how their family have come together to support them at a difficult time, when they are missing out on structure, such as school.

- With reporting by Orla Dwyer and Press Association

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