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Dublin Live
Dublin Live
Laura Lyne

Over 2,200 prisoners referred to mental health services last year as waiting lists grow

Over 2,200 prisoners were referred to mental health services in 2022 while the waiting lists sees some waiting over two years for treatment.

The worrying figures were released to Sinn Fein TD Mark Ward who is now calling on the Government to provide more resources and funding to the Irish Prison Service Psychology Service. He's also calling for similar support to be granted to the wider community in Ireland.

He says that the delay in getting vital supports is leading to higher chances of prisoners re-offending upon their release. Mental health issues that are being treated include PTSD, addiction and substance use, mood and anxiety disorders and impulse disorders.

He said: “It is clear that prisoners are not getting the vital mental health supports that they need. In 2022, 2,259 people were referred to the Irish Prison Service Psychology Service, with some prisoners waiting well over two years for an appointment with a psychologist.

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“As you can see from the list of mental health issues, they are quite varied and complex. The failure in getting timely mental health supports is in turn having a negative impact on the rates of reoffending. If a serious mental health difficulty such as acute psychosis is the root cause of an offence, then what hope is there for rehabilitation if the prisoner cannot access basic mental health services? The end result often leads to reoffending upon release, which also leads to an increase in victims.

"It is a vicious cycle which is being perpetuated by successive governments’ lack of investment and resource planning in both the Irish Prison Service and the mental health services in the wider community. There is also a postcode lottery for treatment depending on which prison you are detained in."

Deputy Ward said that the number of vacancies in the service is adding to delays in getting prisoners treated. In 2021 there was nine vacancies for psychologists in the prison service.

He continued: “For example if you are a prisoner in the women’s Dóchas Centre, you will have to wait on average 153 days for a psychological appointment, however if you are in the Training Unit - the wait is on average 893 days. The Midlands and Mountjoy have over 600 days waiting time for an appointment.

“For too long, the Irish justice system has been the gatekeeper for those experiencing mental health difficulties. If this Government is serious about helping prisoners and bringing down rates of re-offending, then they must resource out prisons."

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