New figures reveal a big shortfall in staffing of mental health services for children and adults in Laois and other counties.
Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan, said that figures from the HSE show clearly the 'failure' to invest in mental health services.
“In HSE area CHO8, the area that covers a significant proportion of the midlands area, including Counties Offaly and Laois, the figures are stark.
“The Child and Adolescent services have just 57% of the staffing levels recommended under a vision for change, with a gap of 76 whole time staff, while the adult service has 80% of the recommended staffing levels with a shortfall of 57 full time staff."
“These figures clearly show the failure of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour Governments to adequately invest in mental health services and implement the vision for change recommendations," Dep Nolan stated.
She claimed this has had a "huge impact" on communities, as a recent UNICEF study shows that Ireland has the fourth highest teen suicide rate in the EU and 22.6% of children aged between 11 and 15 stated that they had experienced two or more psychological symptoms more than once a week."
“The HSE National Vision for Change Working Group states, 'the mainstay of any mental health service is the sector-based Community Mental Health Team,’ yet these teams are being starved of resources and are being consistently asked to do more with less," she continued.
The Offaly TD said Sinn Féin has consistently called for more investment in mental health services.
The Vision for Change, published in 2006 recommends that 12,778 full time staff should be employed in the mental health service in 2017, taking into account population increases.
Figures released from the HSE show that just 9,815 whole time equivalents are employed in mental health services across the state in 2017. Child and adolescent mental health services have only 53% of the staff deemed necessary under a Vision for Change, while for adult teams that number if 78%.
Aware runs free weekly mental health meetings in Porlaoise - details click here