More user-friendly mental health services must be developed at hospitals across Europe, hundreds of medical experts urged today.
Ann O’Riordan, director of the Irish Health Promoting Hospitals Network, said care workers at the major Dublin conference debated methods of empowering vulnerable groups to have a hand in managing their own well-being.
Ms O’Riordan said: “The concept is broader than just the mental health user it is about how are the mental health psychiatric services of old, the institutions, actually helping to integrate with the community, rather than being isolated areas.”
She added the discussions were about “making the service more user-friendly for mental health users and how is that being done in different countries, with what effect.”
The European conference on Mental Health Promotion at the World Health Organisation-backed event also considered the ways people seeking long-term mental health care could still maintain links to society.
Ms O’Riordan added: “I think what they would like to come out of this conference is some guidelines for the promotion of health promotion within the mental health field. That all across Europe they can say these are some key things we should be doing and can we all move forward on those.”
Around 600 delegates from 40 countries are to attend the three-day 13th International World Health Organisation Health Promoting Hospitals Network conference which is running from May 18-20.
At the conference, Catherine Brogan of the Health Service Executive South West area, said approaches to patients that involved more than just simply medical treatment – an entire holistic approach – were being highlighted.
Ms Brogan said many hospital workers were already addressing healthy lifestyle issues with patients – such as supporting them with nutrition and exercise advice in their efforts to quit smoking.
“What we are trying to do now is highlight this as being an important part of the treatment within mental health and identifying good practices,” she said.
“If we work together we can promote the activities that emphasise the well-being of our clients, our families and our staff. It is about everybody in the service, not just those attending.”
The working group was also trying to establish prevention strategies with around 50% of the children of parents with psychiatric disorders also developing problems in later life.
The Irish HPH network, which is hosting the Dublin conference along with the Northern Ireland HPH network, said the first day-long meeting of the group was just a starting point for promoting a wider approach to medical treatment.
“Health promotion is a little bit long term rather than short term,” Ms O’Riordan said.
“We would like to see some level of change in terms of process, that things are changing in terms of ways services are being run or delivered.”
Delegates will debate other key issues at the Dublin conference including essential staff training to tackle the problem of childhood obesity, as shocking statistics have revealed 300,000 children are overweight or obese in Ireland.