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If I were Taoiseach?

As has been the norm for the last number of years, for anyone interested in current affairs at least, my reading of the newspapers, listening to the radio waves and viewing of TV has been dominated by the talk of the recession and all we are doing without as a result. There are cuts across most departments which now affect almost every section of society. On top of that we have had tax rises on the reduced income people now earn, or, for those unfortunate enough to be drawing social welfare it has been reduced. It's fair to say that everyone is earning less, has less services and are in general struggling more in 2012. It got me thinking....

.... If I were Taoiseach, what would I do within the limited parameters available in our current set of difficulties? I am not talking about feeding the world or bringing peace to the globe, albeit I would certainly love to do either. No, what I am talking about here is making one simple change, that costs the minimal amount but will have the maximum effect. We all hear of the jargon that politicians regularly roll out on cost benefit analysis'. This change in effect must pass that test in flying colours. So what would I do?

I am amazed that in 2012 with such a high % of the new unemployed concentrated amongst young males and the drastic increase in suicide in this same group that there is not a more focused and intense approach to tackling depression and mental illnesses on a whole. This is what I would change. Mental Health Policy and Provision. In the past number of weeks I have had numerous conversations with family and friends within health sectors and careers. Last week I heard from my aunt who spent many years in Australia, what an emphasis Australia, a country with a society that inhabited it a mere 250 years ago, puts on mental health. The government have counsellors and psychotherapists at every corner offering free therapy and counselling to every Australian citizen as part of their inclusive health policy. Just last night I had a conversation with one of my friends about the adverse affects unemployment among husbands, brothers, fathers and sons is having on their families, let alone the individuals themselves. What worries me most however, is that while suicide stats have gone through the roof, only a tiny % of those experiencing mental health problems take this drastic step. The stats on suicide omit people experiencing depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling addiction and domestic violence to name but a few. This is a ticking time bomb and everyone, most of all the HSE and the government, seem too wrapped up in share prices, strikes and bond auctions to recognise the problem staring them and tens of thousands of families in the face. It genuinely worries me. 

Just recently I spoke of my desire and need for a career change. I have decided to pursue a career in the coming year or two in counselling and perhaps psychiatry. I genuinely believe as a nation we are still much too afraid of that black dog, too embarrassed what the neighbours or work colleagues might think or say. This has to change, but sadly never will until such a time as our government and health services take it seriously. But probably the most upsetting part about it all, is that the cost would not be prohibitive. There does not have to be injection of capital into equipment, buildings or inventory. All it takes is a counsellors time. All the government have to do is offer free counselling to those in need of such services. At least this would be a start. Mental health issues are the only health problem that can and probably will affect every citizen at some point during the course of their life, the severity is inconsequential in my opinion. At a time when families across the country are under such pressure, unemployment is rampant and money is so scarce, we, as a society, cannot afford to ignore this problem anymore.


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