Press Release

O´Malley addresses Ministerial Conference in Athens

Mr Tim O´Malley TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for mental health, has addressed the Ministerial Panel Discussion in Athens, “Mental Illness and Stigma in Europe: facing up to the challenges of Social Inclusion and Equity.”

“The battle against the stigma and social exclusion caused by mental illness is ongoing. I am very conscious of the importance of fostering an awareness of positive mental health while also highlighting the services that are available locally to people, particularly in times of crisis,” said Minister O’Malley.

The Minister of State thanked the Greek Presidency for providing the opportunity:

  • to improve visibility and raise awareness of the issues of mental illness and stigma
  • to put the matter firmly on the European mental health policy agenda, and
  • to enhance information exchange on this topic and on other relevant issues.

Minister O´Malley spoke about the importance of mental health promotion to foster a better understanding among the public of mental health issues and to try to improve the mental health of the population at large. He expressed the hope that with time and education, the stigma may fade further away, allowing sufferers and their families to participate fully in society in every way.

The success of the shift in the delivery of services from predominantly hospital-based care to care in the community in Ireland was outlined. This has resulted in a continuing decline in the number of in-patients, with a corresponding increase in the range of care facilities based in the community. At 31st December 2001, there were 4,256 patients in psychiatric hospitals and units in Ireland compared to 12,484 in December 1984.

“The development of advocacy services in Ireland is a very recent occurrence, but it is another example of the significant improvements which are taking place in the provision of mental health services,” said Minister O´Malley. An advocate can be someone who can represent and defend the views, needs, wishes, worries and rights of individuals who do not feel able to cope themselves.

The Minister of State also spoke about the enactment of the Irish Mental Health Act, 2001 as a very significant achievement. The primary objective of the Act is to address the civil and human rights of the mentally ill.

“The purpose of the Act is twofold. Firstly, the Act provides a modern framework within which people who are mentally disordered and who need treatment or protection, either in their own interest of in the interest of others, can be cared for and treated. The second purpose of the Act is to put in place mechanisms by which the standards of care and treatment in our mental health services can be monitored, inspected and regulated,” said Minister O´Malley.

The Mental Health Commission, established in April 2002, will be the main vehicle for the implementation of the provisions of the Mental Health Act The Commission´s independent status will be crucial, in driving the agenda for change and modernisation in the Irish mental health services in the coming years. The Mental Health Commission will also be recruiting an Inspector of Mental Health Services, as provided by the Act, and assisting him/her in putting a system of annual inspections and reports in place.

The Minister thanked the Greek Presidency for organizing the conference.

Minister´s Speech