Protecting resources for mental health services should be a priority for any incoming government ("Suicidal girl left in waiting room for hours after being turned away from hospital"; News, 23 January).

The primary reason for mental health care is to reduce symptoms and promote recovery. But there is a strong economic argument too: psychological treatment for depression costs €874 and, as well as reducing symptoms, greatly increases the possibility of return to work, resulting in an average increased economic output of €2,190, within two years.

On this basis, psychological therapy for depression will, first and foremost, reduce symptoms, but also pay for itself within two years and increase economic output.

At present, mental health service-users, families, carers, clinical staff and health service managers are working very well together to provide the best mental health service possible in current circumstances. There are myriad examples of innovative, progressive initiatives, involving service-users and providers alike, taking root in hundreds of communities and mental health services around the country.

At national level, the issue of resources is a political one and must be addressed at political level.

We live in a democracy. Better yet, 2011 is an election year.

Every person – including every voter – is affected by mental illness: one in four will develop a mental illness, everyone knows a friend or colleague with psychological problems, and every family is touched in some way by suicide.

That's a lot of voters. What if every politician was asked a question about mental health resources every time she or he spoke on radio, went on television, or stood at a podium?

What if, every time a politician came to your door in search of your vote, you produced a copy of this letter, and read out the following question: "In 1966, 23% of Ireland's health budget was spent on mental health. In 2010, that figure was 5.3%. Why?"

Dr Brendan Kelly

Senior lecturer in psychiatry

University College Dublin