Radical mental health initiative invites patients’ families into care scheme

A radical international-led approach to mental health, which has been piloted and implemented in West Cork, and is set for expansion to Cork City in the coming weeks, is the subject of an international conference that begins tomorrow.

Finland Open Dialogue is a significant departure from traditional mental health treatment philosophy, as the programme emphasises both the involvement of patients’ families in the treatment programme as well as continuity of care by the same multidisciplinary team.

Running in the West Cork town of Bantry for three years, the Finnish programme also gives priority to involving service-users in meetings and discussions both about their own cases and in the actual development of an appropriate treatment plan.

The successful programme was implemented first as a pilot project and later began operating as a fully fledged mental health clinic in the town.

It has, to date, assisted more than 100 families and now has a staff of 11 across all disciplines.

The programme is expected to be expanded to the South Lee area of Cork city’s mental health service in October and November of this year.

A team is currently receiving training in the UK in preparation for the city-based clinic which will be supported by its Bantry counterpart.

“We heard about the Finnish approach a few years ago and we brought Open Dialogue professionals to Ireland to train staff. From there we decided that we would pilot it,” said Adrienne Adams, an advanced nurse practitioner and Open Dialogue practise lead.

She said interest in the programme had also been expressed by the Kerry Mental Health Service.

“The pilot project saw about 22 families. It was a big change in the service to include families,” said Ms Adams.

“The feedback from service users, their families, and staff confirmed they really liked this approach.

“Staff also felt very supported because this is also a very team-based approach.”

Tomorrow, a phalanx of experts on Open Dialogue from Finland, the US, the UK, and Ireland will discuss the programme, which is now running in New York and Massachusetts as well as in Finland, Lapland, and the UK, where it is the subject of a major national NHS trial in London and other regions.

The conference will feature the views of participating families who will speak of their personal experience of the Open Dialogue approach.

The event will also feature special ‘reflecting panels’ made up of service users, and representations of well-known mental health organisations, psychiatrists, and GPs, who will discuss and reflect on the presentation and facilitate discussion from the audience.

Staff from the Bantry Open Dialogue clinic will also discuss their experiences of the challenges inherent in establishing and running the clinic.

The Conference, ‘Opening Dialogues: Implementing Open Dialogue in Mental Health Services’, takes place tomorrow, between 9.30am and 5pm at the Cork International Airport Hotel, Cork Airport Business Park, Cork City

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