Mental Health Reform’s vision for mental health services

A New Ethos for Mental Health Services

Mental Health Reform’s vision is for an Ireland where people with mental health difficulties can recover their wellbeing and live a full life in their community. Modern and effective mental health services should be delivered in the community where they are easily accessible to everyone.

Modernising Ireland’s mental health services means moving away from the asylum system of institutions that led to people with mental health difficulties leaving their communities and becoming isolated from wider society. The culture of the institutions robbed people of their personal independence, individuality and power.

Having good quality specialist and primary care mental health services available in your community means that you can get the support and treatment you need for your mental health difficulty in your local community. As well as minimising hospital stays, community-based services can also help to reduce social exclusion and stigma, as mental health services become a normal part of community life.

A Vision for Change, the Government’s mental health policy 2006-2016, describes the key elements of modern, mental health services:

Community-based mental health services

Mental health services should be easy to access in your community. They should be delivered by multidisciplinary teams that offer a good mix of professional skills and expertise. These services should help you to stay integrated and included in your community by supporting your participation in work, education, training, leisure and other activities.

Linking GPs and mental health services

Both primary care and specialist services should be available in the community. This will help you to move more seamlessly between primary care and specialist services, and help to reduce the stigma associated with seeking specialist support.

Mental health promotion

Good quality mental health services should move beyond treating mental health difficulties to actively promoting positive mental health in the population. This could include educating people about the actions they can take to improve and maintain mental well-being. Mental health services should place greater emphasis on the prevention of mental health difficulties, early intervention, and supporting the development of protective factors in the individual.

Up-to-date mental health law

The Government must make sure that legislation on mental health is up-to-date with international human rights law, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This includes guidelines setting out the rights of voluntary service users; for example, making sure that they have access to information and are involved in making their own choices without coercion. It must also include legislation protecting the human rights of those who lack the capacity to make decisions in their own best interest because of an acute mental health difficulty. It should also recognise that everyone using mental health services has a right to advocacy (someone who can advocate on their behalf and make sure their rights are protected).

Making sure no one is excluded

Good quality mental health services have a duty to make sure that all groups in society have equal access to adequate mental health services, especially those who face barriers to using services such as discrimination, disability or language difficulties. Many groups could be vulnerable to exclusion from mental health services. These could include people who identify as LGBT, deaf people, ethnic minorities or members of the Travelling community.