Press Release

Minister O’Malley addresses the Cork Advocacy Network Conference

Mr. Tim O’Malley T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children today (Friday 11th February 2005) addressed the National Conference of Cork Advocacy Network at University College Cork. The theme of this conference was “the Steps to Recovery in Mental Health”.

“I think the theme of this Conference reflects our understanding that recovery should be the overarching objective for persons who suffer mental illness and for those involved in the provision of treatment. The role of the advocate is central in helping service users to participate and make decisions about their own care and treatment,” the Minister said.

The Minister stated that the development of advocacy services is a recent occurrence, and is another example of the significant improvements which are taking place in the provision of mental health services. He paid tribute to the work of the Cork Advocacy Network. “ As advocates you represent and defend the views, needs, wishes, worries and rights of individuals who do not feel able to cope themselves. This helps and encourages people to regain control of their own lives,” added the Minister.

Minister O’Malley stated that the Government is committed to the provision of quality care in the area of mental health, to upholding the civil and human rights of those who suffer from mental illness and to encouraging measures aimed at combating the stigma that is often associated with such illness. The Minister referred to the work of the Mental Health Commission and stated that the Commission’s Strategic Plan for 2004-2005 indicates that one of its priorities is to increase public awareness and interest in mental health services. “One of the Commission’s stated objectives is to initiate and sponsor public awareness campaigns to help dispel the stigma associated with mental illness. I believe that these efforts will contribute substantially to dispelling the stigma attaching to mental illness and to improving the quality of life of people who suffer mental difficulties”, the Minister said.

The Minister referred to the work of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy established in 2003 to prepare a national policy framework for the further modernization of the mental health services, updating the 1984 policy document Planning for the Future. The Expert Group has now completed an extensive consultation process which included consultation initiatives with various stakeholders, including users of mental health services. “I’m delighted that the Expert Group is placing the experience of service users at the heart of its work and that this experience will directly influence the ultimate recommendations of the Group. The Expert Group is expected to complete its work in mid 2005 and I look forward to receiving its Report” said the Minister.

The Minister acknowledged the very important work performed by voluntary organisations such as Cork Advocacy Network in improving the quality of life for persons suffering mental illness and wished them continued success in their work