999 for Mental Health

You’re walking on a quiet road, you trip and break your arm.  You call 999 immediately, no question.  They help you, no question.

A few months later other events, or mental illness, have left you feeling very, very depressed.  You have suicidal thoughts.  You call 999.  What happens? I’m told that they don’t/can’t help, but I’m not sure about that. Do you know?

I’d like to estimate the cost/benefit of enabling 999 to triage/respond to mental health emergencies, for a government to show how serious this is.  We’d need more operators (let’s say another 500), we’d need counsellors (let’s say 250 of them for 24/7 cover), and we’d need schedulers that could redirect less urgent cases to primary care mental health services in the community (let’s say we need 250 of them too).  Assume they all get paid €45k (it’s skilled shift work), and that the extra IT/Ops infrastructure is €5m/ yr, it adds up to ONLY €50m per year.

There may be better things to spend the €50m on, I’m no expert in the area.  Plus I don’t think we have a spare €50m; the last I heard mental health funding was being cut because…. well my best guess would be because Enda Kenny doesn’t care enough about it.

At this stage, “999 for mental health” is just an idea, I’m going to have to do research to see what the current status is, speak to stakeholders to see if it’s possible and then how it compares to other ideas in the same space.

I know that the Vision for Change developed at the Department of Health by an expert group is not implemented yet, so there’s probably already a long list of excellent ideas in the funding queue.  It’s shocking that we’re so bad at this.

The Citizens Information site has a page about accessing Mental Health services, but the link to “contact the emergency services” leads to a “Page not Found error” – can you believe it?!

Maybe the first step on this journey is to get that webpage working again.