State of Mind, Are you Well? The need for mental health reform

When we, the members of Irish society think of mental health, do we think of the word ‘mad’ and associate it with individuals’ own preconceptions of their mental state? Depression, anxiety, eating and compulsive disorders are just a small fraction of disorders encompassed in mental health difficulties. We often disregard some of these disorders as unimportant or even benign, until we absolutely can no longer.

It can be daunting for people to think of the concept of a mental health difficulty; the feeling of a loss of control over one’s mind with regard to stress management in a countless number of forms is imaginably frightening. Yet, thousands of people continue to suffer in silence, perhaps due to a feeling of self-denial or shame, as they do not want to admit that they may have mental health difficulties. Today in Ireland, there are limitless contributing factors to poor mental health within the population; income inequality and unemployment remain persistent issues.

According to a 2011 report on ‘Women and Men in Ireland’ published by the Irish Central Statistics Office (CSO), unemployment levels rose significantly across all age groups for men from 6.6% in 2008 to 17.5% in 2011. Equally, the level of unemployment increased starkly for women of all ages from 8.% in 2009 to 10.4% in 2011.

Luckily, there is a vast number of organisations and support services available to mental health sufferers in Ireland. But during the current economic turbulence, it is debatable whether the government will continue to invest an adequate amount of capital in mental health services., Mental health reform is a group that is working to try and influence the government to continue to invest in this aspect of the health sector.

Mental Health Reform is an independent coalition of organisations working to improve mental health services, social inclusion and vindication of rights.

Director of Mental Health Reform, Orla Barry, told The College View that the association promotes a “model of health and social care where all citizens have equal access to, affordable, sustainable and high quality, primary care and specialist mental health services”. Mental Health Reform’s ongoing work hopes to eventually see a new Ireland, where people experiencing mental health complexities can achieve and enjoy the highest standard of mental health.

The organisation is currently running a campaign under the title: ‘Government, Don’t Drop the Ball on Mental Health’, which will urge the government to keep the promise they made in the Programme for Government to “vastly improve access to modern mental health services in the community”. Communications and Campaign Officer, Lara Kelly, told The College View that the campaign hopes to “raise awareness of issues concerning mental health” and “that the government invests €35 million in developing community mental health services”. Kelly also said that the campaign aims to help mental health treatment to make the transition from “industrial-based” care to contemporary “institutional hospital-based care”.

As an independent group, Mental Health Reform does not receive any government funding. It relies solely on membership fees, philanthropic funding, grants, corporate donations and individual donations. The Atlantic Philanthropies and The One Foundation proudly support the association.

On October 1st, former Ireland and Munster rugby star, Alan Quinlan, joined forces with Barry to urge the Government not to ‘drop the ball’ on mental health in the budget for 2013. Quinlan spoke at the campaign launch, urging the public to give support and he highlighted the need for local support services in stating: “I know.”

Catríona Hughes

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