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GPs representing the IMO have told the Oireachtas Committee on Mental Health that it believes that Covid-19 has had significant psychological effects on people across the country.
Dr Denis McCauley, Chair of the GP Committee of the IMO and Dr Sumi Dunne from the GP Committee told the Committee that there was growing incidence of common mental health problems and more marked neuro psychiatric disorders associated with the pandemic.
The GPs said “these can arise from direct effects of infection and of long Covid syndrome with enforced isolation and quarantine and with additional stressors arising from abnormal bereavement, job losses, inter familial tensions or sudden impoverishment. They can present as acute psychiatric diagnosis or an exacerbation of previous issues including domestic violence or increased alcohol or drug use.”
The two GPs criticised what they described as the lack of funding for mental health in General Practice “despite the fact that up to 90 per cent of mental health issues are managed in General Practice without referral to specialist mental health services.”
Dr Dunne warned that the incidence of mental health disorders in children and adolescents is growing with studies showing that as many as 1 in 6 young teenagers show evidence of diagnosable mental disorders “however specialist child and adolescent mental health services are equally under resourced”.
The IMO told the Committee that it recommends that investment in a clinical programme of care for mental health should be negotiated between the IMO, the Department of Health, and the HSE similar to the chronic disease management programmes funded in the recent GP agreement.