By Caitriona McMahon
Today the Irish Government are announcing the Budget for 2017. No doubt the news channels will be wall-to-wall digits and figures.
There will inevitably be an increase in this and a decrease in that. I’m sure the figures announced have been given months of consideration and deliberation but what about our people? What about our mothers, our fathers, our sisters and brothers. They are not figures, they are people and they are who this Budget directly affects. Were communities thought about in the lead up to today or the average person in a rural community setting?
My reason for writing this is simple. Our people can no longer be forgotten. I can’t stand by and watch anyone else slip through the cracks despite meeting after meeting or policy after policy. While all these policies for change are being drafted who is out in the community communicating with and minding our people?
An endless source of frustration for me, is hearing that funding will be placed in community-based mental health services. This is something I’ve heard time after time and where is it? Is there a community based government funded mental health centre in your town or village? I have yet to see more than one in an entire region.
Last year in a bid to know more I studied Mental Health In The Community through University College Cork. Having such a qualification along with lived experience, I wanted to work towards helping others through difficult times.
I wanted to create a lifeline, yet at the same time implement practices that would maintain mental well-being. After all prevention is better than cure right? The reality being that the only way I could do this was by co founding a voluntary organisation. As a career this role does not exist.
I know all too well that if someone has surgery and returns home they receive regular visits from the local district nurse who will dress and clean the wounds and look out for the persons overall welfare to prevent anything reoccurring or becoming worse. Imagine if a person discharged from a psychiatric unit or day hospital received the same treatment? Someone to call daily for the initial reintegration period to ensure they have all they need to help themselves. Someone to talk to, someone to just be there.
What about our farmers, unemployed, widows, or the elderly all living in rural areas alone with their own thoughts 24 hrs a day? Where’s the wellness maintenance plan here? Who at the top is looking out for them? If it wasn’t for the kindhearted people and voluntary agencies in their communities, I dread to think what would happen.
The way I see it is that in this country it seems to be the fire fighting approach that is taken. If smoke is seen then there’s a reaction to quench it immediately but who investigates the cause of the fire? Who carries out a risk assessment?
We live in a country where unless you walk into the social welfare counter with crutches or are in a wheelchair, you are not believed to have a disability and you have to fight to prove it. We live in a country so wrapped up in paperwork and meetings that our friends and family are being forgotten.
We need change and we need it fast. No false promises only action and solutions are needed. Our communities deserve better they deserve piece of mind because regardless of our Budget today, there will be a human cost tomorrow.