Minister: No crisis in mental health services but there are 'challenges'

There is no crisis in the mental health services — but there are “challenges”, says Minister of State for Mental Health, Jim Daly.

Latest inspection reports from the Mental Health Commission have warned that a lack of regulation means that people in 24-hour mental health residences are at risk of abuse.

The inspection reports into 43 of the country’s supervised residences found “serious deficiencies” in many of them.

Mr Daly said he accepts the findings and improvement suggestions made in the reports but he does not accept there is a crisis in mental health services.

“I accept there are challenges; I don’t think it is a crisis but there are challenges,” he said.

Mr Daly pointed out that spending on mental health services has increased to €910m in the last five years — a 28% increase over the period.

“But it is not all about money; it is about looking at how we do what we do.”

The minister was speaking at the launch in Dublin yesterday of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ five-year strategy ‘Changing Minds. Changing Lives’.

The leading not-for-profit mental health service provider believes those experiencing mental health difficulties have equal rights as citizens and should be treated with respect and dignity.

However, it is concerned that there are a number of important issues affecting the treatment and prevention of mental health difficulties in Ireland that need to be tackled.

In particular, it believes the rights of those experiencing mental health difficulties, particularly their rights to receive appropriate services and supports, are not adequately enshrined in legislation.

It also points out that only a small number of mental health services are fully compliant with the statutory quality standards set by the Mental Health Commission.

Over the years it has found that involving those who experience mental health difficulties as equal partners in the planning, management and evaluation of its services has been critical.

Full involvement has been associated with positive clinical outcomes, improved self-empowerment and enhanced recovery.

The Service User and Supporters’ Council (SUAS) is a forum established by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services and its chairman, Stephen Burke, helped launch the strategy.

Mr Burke, who was diagnosed with psychosis 12 years ago, said members, who are current and ex-service users, meet regularly and work with the hospital to develop its services.

Asked how he would describe himself now, he replied: “Happy”.

Mr Burke said his condition used to terrify him. He found the best way to overcome it was to learn about his condition and work with the “very good” people in the hospital.

“Today my thoughts are racing and my heart is pumping. But 12 years ago they were the symptoms of psychosis. Now I know I just feel that way because I am nervous.”

The chairwoman of the board of governors, Caroline Preston, said service users are involved in every aspect of the organisation, including at board level.

The chief executive, Paul Gilligan, said the strategy, grounded in a strong human rights framework and developed through consultation with their service users has “set ambitious but very achievable targets”.

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