The HSE has confirmed that it is no longer able to fund a Mental Health and Suicide Prevention category at the student media awards (Smedias).

A spokeswoman said the cut was due to reductions in the health budget. “The current economic climate has seen the health budget reduced by over €1.2billion over the last three years. Reductions in funding have been applied to all HSE funded services in 2013,” she said.

The Smedias, now in its 13th year, was disappointed with the announcement by the HSE, in the approach to the annual awards recognising young journalistic talent in Ireland, according to awards director Colman Byrne. 

Award organisers have been forced to withdraw the specialist category ‘Journalism relating to mental health or suicide prevention. ’Organisers hoped the HSE would change its decision on funding and come back on board with the awards.

The HSE added: “The National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) is focused on continuing to fund resources that provide support to people at risk of suicide with particular emphasis on supporting direct front-line services.

“While this is regrettable, the National Office for Suicide Prevention continues its work to educate and inform journalists and journalism students about media reporting related to suicide prevention and mental health.

“Funding was not available in 2012 for this student journalism award and similarly is not available in 2013.”

Orla Barry, Director of Mental Health Reform says "The removal from the National Student Journalism Awards of a category that aims to highlight issues of mental health and suicide prevention is unfortunate. 

"Mental Health Reform believes in the need to raise public awareness of these issues, and in this time of economic recession, the need for investment in mental health has never been greater."

Director of the Smedias Colman Byrne expressed his disappointment and regret at the HSE’s decision not to fund the specialist award that “highlights such an important issue in Irish society.”

A statement issued on behalf of the Smedias team said: “We believe that this is a retrograde step as before this award was introduced this was not a common topic in student publications, but by 2012 the category had 60 entries.

“Funding was cancelled last year, but as it is such an important category we continued with it at a loss.

“We had hoped that they would come back on board, but they have not and sadly we are unable to continue to carry the category without funding.

“The total cost of funding to cover the award was €3,000 euro and it was felt this was a small price to pay in highlight an issue of great importance like “mental health and suicide prevention,” added Mr Colman.

The National Student Media Awards will take place on April 17th this year.