Slow progress in mental health service as tide goes out on Victorian-era hospitals
But if these posts are to have a real impact, observers point out that base funding for the sector cannot be allowed to keep falling. Appointing additional staff to community mental health teams at a time when the original team membership is being reduced is like pouring water into a bucket full of holes.
There are many encouraging developments on the ground. The independent monitoring group found evidence of many local and regional “bottom-up” initiatives providing high-quality community services and led by local leadership. Older facilities not fit for purpose are also being closed down. There is major progress in delivering long-neglected child and adolescent mental health services. It’s not all gloomy, by any means.
The experiences of former patients such as Miriam O’Shea are an example of how a recovery approach to mental health service can work for some.
She has had several admissions to psychiatric hospital over the past two decades. But only now does she feel she has made real strides in recovering, largely through her own initiative and the support of others former patients in county Cork.
“I’m a human being with emotional distress. But the system gives you a label and then goes on to give you even more labels. Your choices are taken away,” she said. “Groups like MindFreedom Ireland make you realise that you do have choices.”
She finds music and art therapy particularly therapeutic. She takes part in “A little help from my friends”, a weekly meeting in which participants play musical instruments. There’s also the Next Step, a drop-in centre that uses arts and crafts to help boost people’s self-esteem and confidence. It might not work for everyone but she says it has for her.
“Looking back, I really don’t think I was mentally ill. I had a lot of loss in my life, culminating in losing the rearing of my son to an open adoption . . . I feel now that I needed to address that grief, rather than medicating it.
“These days I feel I’m on a new journey. I’m living life again. I’ve known great loss but I’ve also know great joy and I’m living life to the full.”
number of people who took their lives in the State in 2011
number of self-harm cases reported in 2010
estimated number of vacant posts across mental health services
number of professionals due to be hired to improve services during 2012
the number of these promised professionals who were in place by mid-December 2012