Press Release

Minister Moloney Begins Nationwide ‘Town Hall’ Meetings To Positively Change Social Attitudes And Behaviour Associated With Mental Health

John Moloney T.D., Minister of State in the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for Disability and Mental Health is beginning a series of ‘Town Hall’ meetings as part of a national campaign called “See Change”. See Change aims to help people understand mental health and wellbeing. The first meeting will take place in the Templegate Hotel, Ennis, Co. Clare on Tuesday, 14th September, 2010 at 7.30.

Minister Moloney has asked all the County Community Forums throughout the country to host similar Town Hall type meetings and dates have now been finalised. Details are available at www.seechange.ie. The Minister intends to have all the meetings completed over the coming months. Follow up meetings presented by service providers and other state agencies will be organised.

The purpose of the Town Hall meetings is to encourage people and organisations to recognise the importance of positive mental health and the negative impact that some perceptions of mental health issues can have on people’s lives. The aim is to encourage people to come forward for support if they are experiencing mental health issues and eliminate some of the perceptions attached to mental health.

Minister Moloney will speak at each of the County Forums and will be joined by Mr. John Saunders, the National Director of See Change and speakers representing the local services, the HSE, community and voluntary groups as well as service users will make presentations.

The Minister said that he is firmly of the view that many suicides could be prevented if we, as a nation, were more open in our attitude to positive mental health and the first step to reduce the number of people who end their lives by suicide is to make it easy and acceptable for people to present for help and support. “One of the most significant problems encountered by people with mental health problems is the misunderstanding of what it actually means. This can be deeply hurtful and isolating. Learning to live with mental health problems is extremely difficult, but this difficulty can be compounded when someone experiences, at first hand, the prejudice caused by stigma. It can also be distressing for the families and friends of those persons”.

“Eliminating the misunderstanding associated with mental ill health will not happen overnight. However the “See Change” campaign has the potential to effect change within Irish society and help lay the necessary foundations for a real and positive transformation of how mental illness is perceived”.

“The challenge is to ensure that by the end of the series of Town Hall meetings, there will be openness about mental health and that people will present to the services the same as they would if they were people with cancer or orthopaedic problems” the Minister concluded.

“See Change” will work to change attitudes and behaviour to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems. The vision for “See Change” is that of an Ireland where every person has an open and positive attitude to their own and others’ mental health. The aim of the campaign is to:

  • Reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems and challenge discrimination.
  • Create an environment where people are more open and positive in their attitudes and behaviour towards mental health.
  • Promote a greater understanding and acceptance of and support for people with mental health problems, and
  • Empower individual people with experience of mental health problems to gain equality, respect and rights.

A network of national and local organisation across the country will carry the anti-stigma message through local broadcasts, local print media and a range of other activities. The campaign will run at least for two years and it is hoped that by the end of that period, people with mental health problems will find it easier to participate as valued members of society with access to meaningful employment, appropriate housing and positive interpersonal relationships.

The “See Change” campaign is working in partnership with the HSE and the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP).

90% of mental health problems are dealt with in primary care settings with some 30% of people who attend primary care having a mental health problem. The estimated spend on mental health services in Ireland is €1 billion. An additional €1m.specifically aimed at a range of suicide prevention measures was recently provided by the Government in addition to the €4.5m.already provided. The additional funding will allow communities to develop suicide prevention initiatives and will assist them in preventing suicidal behaviour at all levels by providing for example, places where people can access support and information such as youth cafes; networks of carers and supporters in the community that can respond to signs of risk by completing ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) or Safe Talk (suicide awareness training programmes); and suicide bereavement support information, outreach and counselling services to support families and communities when individual tragedies occur.

The programmes will help communities to develop integrated local action plans for suicide prevention which can draw on positively evaluated projects elsewhere. This approach will enhance the ability of communities to prevent suicidal behaviour at all levels of risk and is consistent with Reach Out the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention (2005) and will complement the national work undertaken by the NOSP.