Most of you reading this blog, if my stats are even remotely based in reality, are based in Ireland, so I don’t need to spell out how things are in relation to the economy, the cuts we’ve all dealt with and the upcoming horror that is Budget Day. For those of you outside Ireland – well you’re probably also aware of the state we’re in, but if you’re not, suffice to say we’ve had a fairly shitty few years of pay cuts, job losses, tax increases and reduced services, and are looking at more in the next budget. Mental health services have been badly affected.
So why am I talking about this? I was contacted by Mental Health Reform, who asked me to write a piece around their ongoing campaign, Do What Works. The goal of all the work that MHR do is a simple one:
‘an Ireland where people with mental health difficulties can recover their good health and live their lives to the fullest. Mental Health Reform promotes improved and prioritised mental health services in Ireland’
That’s not too much to ask, is it? Apparently so. I’m not a fan of politics, and tend not to read the news beyond headlines as quite honestly, I find it upsetting and frustrating at the best of times, and I’ve enough on my plate trying to keep my own little patch on the straight an narrow. So, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the matter. What I do know though is this – in the last two budgets, €35 million was promised for investment in community mental health services, and to date progress has been very slow. The aim of the Do What Works campaign is to get commitment that €35 million will be allocated again this year, but this time actually be used within the year.
MHR have done an incredible amount of research around what is needed and how change could be implemented, and if you’re interested in reading more about this, they have two really useful documents available here and here. While drafting these documents, and in consultation with a wide variety of groups and individuals, they ‘heard the consistent message that people want to be listened to, to have a consistent supportive relationship with a professional and an offer of treatment that is not exclusively focused on medication’.
That truly is a wonderful aspiration. I’ve witnessed first hand both the benefits of a supportive on-going relationship (thank you Therapist), but also the extreme difficulty of accessing psychiatric care. I was dangerously depressed before action was finally taken, and I had to take the drastic measure of going through A&E because there simply wasn’t the option of seeing someone quickly any other way. While I was already in the system, appointments were months apart, and there was no consistency in terms of who I saw due to rotation of teams every six months. Although the same consultant heads up the team, there’s no guarantee of seeing her at appointments as she tends to be focused on emergencies.
After 5 weeks, the transition to home from hospital was very difficult, we had all been through a lot. To have had the support of someone within the community, someone who could check in even every few days in those first few weeks (much like the Public Health Nurse checks in after the birth of a baby) would have made such a difference. It would have been a safety net for us all, and had problems arisen, we would have had somewhere to turn. But, that wasn’t the case. Now again, I have to say, I’m incredibly lucky. I have access to Therapist, privately, and have a very supportive GP who I know I can contact if there’s a problem. I also had Hubby around, and friends keeping an eye out for me. But what about people who don’t have that support? What about people who are heading home to an empty house, with little or no support from family? For them, the system is failing miserably, and they’re the people who will need to be readmitted because it is simply too hard to recover from a mental illness alone.
Please, please, I urge you – please take a minute to head over here and sign Mental Health Reform’s petition to the Government, We all need to take care of our mental health, and we all need support to do that.