Mental health: are we listening?

 

Sir, – The closure of St Brendan’s Hospital, Grangegorman (Carl O’Brien, Health +Family, February 26th) and the opening of the Phoenix Care Centre, a modern intensive care centre, is a welcome step forward in the reform of mental health service delivery.

This ending and new beginning is happening in the wake of the Government apology to the Magdalene women and we must not forget that at a peak in 1958, there were 21,000 people institutionalised in Ireland’s psychiatric hospitals, the highest rate per capita of any country in the world at that time.

We in Mental Health Reform hear from many people who carry hurt and suffering from past experiences in psychiatric hospitals. While the old grey and red buildings are closing, this suffering cannot be forgotten.

While many improvements have been made in recent years, the need for a more humane, person-focused service is still the consistent message from the many people we consult across the country. Furthermore, although many people have positive experiences of mental health care, we regularly hear about those who feel they cannot get their voice heard within mental health services and are not given the choices they should have over their treatment.

The Mental Health Commission’s 2012 report on user satisfaction with inpatient services found almost a third of respondents wished to complain about the inpatient service. Of those who did complain, 52 per cent were dissatisfied with the manner that their complaint was dealt with, while 54 per cent were not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint.

If our values now are so different from the past, as the Taoiseach so movingly spoke of, how is that evident in the experience of people with mental health difficulties?

What do we need to do in 2013 to reflect new values and a changed culture?

We must support the voices of people with mental health difficulties and their family members and carers and ensure they are heard and respected, through stronger mental health law, a better complaints system and easy access to advocacy. – Yours, etc,

ORLA BARRY,

Director,

Mental Health Reform,

Trinity Street, Dublin 2.