– Your Editorial (June 17th) outlined in compelling detail the inexcusable state of our mental health services, and rightly commended Amnesty International for seeking to use human rights and international law in seeking to address this national scandal.
Indeed, you are right to identify our prisons as the dumping ground for so many people with serious mental health problems, whom society has rejected.
However, it is also worth underlining that on their release, with no where to go, they drift into what is often described in the jargon as “chaotic lifestyle”, and spend their time between stints in prison homeless on our streets.
We have been involved in working with people who are homeless for over 30 years and during that time, despite the so-called Celtic Tiger years, we have witnessed the results of the running down of the mental health services through many of the people who come to our door everyday.
We do not often quote statistics because they rarely describe the human suffering they seek to describe, but the decline in spending on the mental health services as a share of the overall health budget from 23 per cent in 1966 to 7 per cent this year should leave no one in any doubt just how desperate the situation has become.
According to Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone is entitled to dignity and respect, and it is shocking to think that the Irish State violates that principle in a systematic way every day in its treatment of so many of our fellow citizens with mental health problems.
We have long campaigned for rights-based management approaches in all areas of the health, homeless and social services to ensure the person is put at the centre of the system, as you so rightly put it.
However, there can be no doubt that the situation in our mental health service represents one of the most serious human rights concerns in Ireland today and demands urgent action.
– Yours, etc,