Psychiatric Services

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It is often said that the psychiatric services are the Cinderella of the Irish health system. Certainly the resources allocated to the psychiatric services have very much being dwarfed by the resources allocated to other aspects of the health service. It is not clear as to exactly why the issue of mental health has to a certain extent been excluded and side lined. Community psychiatric services are grossly under funded and the importance of these services cannot be over estimated. The funding goes towards the provision of proper and adequate services to persons who suffer from mental health issues. As a last resort a person can be admitted to a department of psychiatry in an appropriate hospital, but this should be a last resort. Ideally, the management of psychiatric issues should be managed within the community to assist individuals continue with their day to day lives, work, activities etc. When persons are admitted as involuntary patients the Mental Health Act 2001 provides important and valuable safeguards. There is a cost to the provision of these safe guards to involuntary patients. That cost is borne by the Mental Health Commission. It may be said that the monies so applied would be best directed towards the provision of psychiatric services, however, persons who are involuntarily admitted in my experience are the most vulnerable people in our society. They may suffer from very serious long standing psychiatric issues or alternatively they may present with a threat of serious and immediate risk to self or others. Regardless as to which category a person will fall into their legal rights are paramount and the vindication of their legal rights are an integral part of our constitutional democracy. There is a cost to the system in the form of payment to tribunal members and legal representatives. The resources of the local mental health administrator also are necessary. However, without the provision of these protections the most vulnerable members of our society are “locked away” without any independent review. The current system allows for the provision of legal advice and legal representation to these patients. Without that provision many of these patients would be unable to advocate for themselves. There is a cost to this system of legal oversight, but the service is necessary. It is indeed a pity that there are not more resources for the psychiatric services in a globalised sense to include proper funding for all aspects of the mental health system.