According to the annual report of the Mental Health Commission of Ireland, mental health services are highly inadequate.
While praising the mental heath caregivers for their acceptance of the need of teamwork, Mental Health Inspector Dr. Susan Finnerty, said that more attention was to be drawn to integrated care planning; the new law under the mental health act.
In other words, this means that teams must harness psychiatrists, occupational therapists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, speech and language therapists and psychologists to care for the patients' many needs.
Yet says Dr Finnerty that only two of Ireland's 32 catchment areas are staffed sufficiently to be in a position to offer a core multidisciplinary team in each of its sub-sectors.
Lack of staff impacts most long-stay patients. Half of all patients have been in hospital for over a year and a third for over five years. The report stressed serious concerns for their welfare, particularly as many are cared for in old asylum-style hospitals, earmarked for closure.
Says Dr. Finnerty: "In many long-stay wards patients were observed by the inspectors to be wandering around aimlessly or sitting motionless, and this is the pattern for these patients every day of the year, punctuated by the odd outing or Christmas party.
"It is strongly felt by the inspectorate that these patients have been forgotten", she added.
One-in-eight patients are in psychiatric wards mainly due to intellectual disability, yet they have practically no specialist supports, the report reveals.
One group of patients in Carlow were found living in a house described as: "Rundown, bleak, in poor repair and does not in any way meet the needs of this very disabled group of patients."
There are 15 large institutions catering for mental health patients. Currently, 1,683 patients have been in hospital for more than one year, and another 1,077 for more than five years.
"The numbers of long stay patients are slowly decreasing, but the conditions of many remaining wards are entirely inadequate," Dr Finnerty warned.
The CEO of the Mental Health Commission, Brian Clarke, said that 2006 had been a landmark year for mental health provision in Ireland, as the Mental Health Act 2001 took full effect.
Clarke said the MHC has set up a database on mental health service research, and hoped to start an all-island research center.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) welcomed the report, and said it would be making a big investment in the sector this year. The HSE said it was investing 25 million Eurodollars and creating 250 new jobs in mental health services.