Campaign

Keeping Mental Health on the agenda

By 9th November 2020 No Comments

Most people agree that every person living in Ireland should be able to live a happy, healthy life full of joy, hope and security. This means that we should have every chance to build and develop good mental health through local and accessible public services like therapy, and access to specialist doctors when we need it. But unfortunately, this Government and its predecessors made political choices to underfund our mental health services for far too long. 

That’s why over the last few months, our campaigning community has been fighting hard to have our voices heard by decision makers on the issues surrounding mental health, and the great news is we are winning.  

No matter who we are, or where we come from – most of us have had to struggle with our mental health at some point. The impact of COVID-19 has exposed the huge gaps in our mental healthcare system – and many more people are now coming forward to access supports during this difficult time. [1]

But, because government politicians decided to ignore the needs of our mental health system for years, our mental health system was already under serious pressure before this pandemic. Now, services are stretched even more. Our communities are in dire need of funding and resources to support them through this tough time. [2]

That’s why Uplift partnered with an expert organisation called Mental Health Reform. The national mental health coalition of 70+ organisations, Mental Health Reform – which includes many Uplift members – have been fighting for funding for these vital services in our communities. [3] They were asking for; increases in staffing mental health services, the development of out-of-hours crisis services and investment in primary care mental health and talk therapies amongst other demands. 

Check out the Mental Health Reform website 

We knew that Mental Health Reform could help steer the policy asks in the right direction, and we knew that together as Uplift members, we could build serious pressure to make sure these policy asks were put at the heart of Government decision making. As the Government was putting together Budget 2021 – together we made sure that our TDs heard from us on how important it was for them to make different choices when it came to resourcing our mental health services. We made it our duty to make sure every TD is pushing for mental health to be a priority in this Budget – so that this Covid crisis is not followed by more of a mental health crisis. After all, the figures they put on those budget pages for investment in our mental health will affect many people that we know and love. 

Over a number of weeks we sent thousands of emails – 2,544 emails to be exact – to our local TDs. We wanted to make sure they had heard us by speaking to them directly on the phone and on social media – sending almost 100 tweets and calls directly to their offices, keeping mental health firmly on the agenda.

Ray from Mental Health Reform said;

“The massive efforts of the Uplift community carried our collective message throughout government buildings and constituencies across the country – mental health is more important now than ever and we made sure it’s a political priority! As a result of our actions together, an additional €50M was secured for mental health in Budget 2021 which will help to support urgently needed improvements across our mental health system. Perhaps more importantly, we have demonstrated together our collective concern for mental health and the need for urgent improvements in services across our communities. But of course – we still have work to do.”

Uplift members care deeply and took lots of action. As well as calls and emails to our TDs about the Budget campaign – almost 50,000 people have signed our petition for 24/7 mental health services and hundreds of Uplift members took our survey on why mental health services were so important to them. [4,5] 

We showed the huge power building behind the campaign – and forced the Minister for Mental Health Mary Butler to agree to meet us to accept the huge petition Uplift members had signed for 24/7 community mental health services.

With only a couple of weeks left until Budget 2021, the timing was crucial for us to get our message across. With little time to spare, Uplift members funded an eye-catching tactic of printing a huge petition as a scroll and hired a great photographer to capture it – so that the sight of the near 50,000 signatures printed cannot be forgotten. 

On Saturday the 19th of September, we delivered the large scroll to the Minister at her local constituency office in Waterford and spoke to her directly about the effects of underfunded mental health services on Uplift members. [6]

Uplift member and petition starter, Stacy said;

“It’s so important to deliver this petition as change needs to happen with mental health services as too many people are losing their lives to suicide. Mental health should have the same equal support as physical health

More and more lives are being taken everyday around the country by suicide. The only way forward is to engage with the people who have mental health illnesses and listen to their needs.

As someone who suffered with mental health in the past and who is also beavered several times by suicide, each suicide loss is a lesson learned. We need services; a 24/7 emergency department service can save lives.

It’s not everyday you get the chance to deliver a campaign and speak directly to a Minister – and we saw the results in the Budget 2021.

Uplift members fought and won the allocation of €50 million extra announced for Budget 2021. People-power made sure the government took note of the deep need for well funded, locally accessible mental health support – so people have improved access to mental health services to live thriving lives. Together, we will continue to campaign on mental health issues for the betterment of our communities, but for every single person who took action – you should feel very proud today. When we work together, we can achieve anything. 

 

NOTES

[1] Mental health resources stretched thinner by nation under pressure

[2] Mental health funds must double in face of post-Covid ‘tsunami’ 

[3] Mental Health Reform Pre-Budget Submission  

[4] MyUplift petition ‘We need better mental health services’ 

[5] Uplift Mental Health Survey 2020 results

[6] Petition delivery to the Minister in the news