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Mental health groups challenge candidates to come up with plans

The seven presidential candidates have mentioned mental health issues and suicide prevention during their campaigns. Three Irish mental health groups have asked for their plans.

File photo of Áras an Uachtaráin
File photo of Áras an Uachtaráin
Image: Photocall Ireland

THREE IRISH MENTAL health groups have challenged the seven presidential candidates to come up with plans to show what they could do to improve the mental health of the nation if they were elected.

Amnesty International Ireland, Mental Health Reform and See Change said that during their campaigns all of the candidates have stressed that mental health and suicide prevention is on top of their agenda should they be elected. However, the groups wanted to see some concrete strategies.

They asked what exactly the candidates plan to do in the areas of stigma reduction, anti-discrimination work and to generally improve the mental health of the nation.

Orla Barry, director of Mental Health Reform said the President is perfectly placed to get people talking because there needs to be a “national conversation on the issue”.

Six of the seven candidates submitted plans but no response to the request was received from Dana Rosemary Scallon.

Mary Davis says she wants to be a practical president and believes the President can challenge the stigma attached to mental health issues.

Seán Gallagher speaks about the need to address rural isolation for older people, while recognising the importance of peer-support for younger people.

Among Michael D. Higgins’ plans is a promotion of positive attitudes to mental health by highlighting initiatives for inclusion.

Martin McGuinness says a key priority for him if he was elected would be to accelerate the de-stigmatisation of mental health issues by engaging directly with people. He said he will make Áras an Uachtaráin a “welcoming place”.

Gay Mitchell plans to build on the work of President Mary McAleese, who recently held a mental health forum in the Phoenix Park. He hopes to take a report to the houses of the Oireachtas to ensure the issue is addressed with priority.

David Norris says it is important to establish relationships and an “ongoing rapport” with people affected by mental health issues. He wants to be seen to be doing something “real and tangible”.

People have been asked to vote on what they think is the best plan to make Ireland a better place for people with mental health problems. The candidates’ plans can be found here.

For more information, see MentalHealthReform.ie>

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