Pre-Budget Debate, November 2009

Pre-budget debate on 17th November 2009, speech by Dan Neville TD

Deputy Dan Neville

I am extremely concerned about the recommendation in the McCarthy report that €50 million be saved in the area of mental health and disability. The situation with regard to mental illness and suicide is serious in recessionary times. Studies and experience since the 1890s have shown that the incidence of suicide and psychiatric illness increases during recessions. The director general of the World Health Organisation, Margaret Chan, stated earlier this year that in times of recession, “it should not come as a surprise that we continue to see more stresses, suicides and mental disorders.” The director of the WHO’s mental health and substance abuse department also stated:

There is a clear evidence that suicide is linked to financial disasters. I am not talking about the millionaire jumping out the window but about poor people.

The potential psychological impact of economic recession on mental health is severe. Job loss, job insecurity and uncertainty, economic strain, loss of income, home repossessions and restricted access to credit lead to a reduction in mental well-being, an increase in mental health problems and ill-health, increased substance misuse, especially alcohol and drugs, and intimate relationship breakdown and divorce. There is a loss of perceived social worth and a loss of purpose and daily structure, a reduction in social contact and an increase in social isolation. Increases in suicidal behaviour – both self-harm and completed suicide – occur.

We saw this week statistics showing an increase of 43% in suicides in the first three months of this year. In addition, the National Suicide Research Foundation in Cork has reported an increase in attempted suicide and self-harm since the recession began. People who are unemployed are two to three times more likely to die from suicide than those in employment. I heard today a statistic from a senior person in the HSE that for every 1% increase in unemployment there is a 0.79% increase in suicide.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan)

The Deputy’s section of the slot has concluded.

Deputy Dan Neville

I urge the Minister to ensure there is no reduction in funding and that there is an increased contribution in this area.