Speaking Points for Minister Moloney for the launch of University College Cork’s Student Mental Health Policy

I am honoured to have been asked here today to launch the University’s Student Mental Health Policy document and to thank Dr. Michael Byrne for his invitation to launch this worthy publication. It is appropriate that we are here today in University College Cork, a prestigious venue synonymous with young people and education, two important themes for today.

The launch today of this publication has never been more appropriate and I would like to thank and congratulate the members of the policy committee for their work and commitment in producing this document. It will, I believe, serve as a very useful guide for both students and teachers to help them better recognise and understand the mental health issues which affect young people.

Both students and teachers can play a vital role by identifying early warning signs of an emerging mental health issue and encouraging the young person to seek help as soon as possible.

As Minister of State for Disability and Mental Health, one of my main priorities is to eliminate social exclusion, stigmatisation and discrimination of the mentally ill and create a culture and environment where people in distress feel they can seek help from family, friends and health professionals. For too long mental health has been a taboo subject and discussions on it were strictly off limits. As a result, many mental health problems were left unacknowledged, unrecognised and untreated. But the reality is that mental illness is a common problem and is not, and never has been, a marginal issue.

We all have a role to play in breaking the taboo which still surrounds mental illness. We must all make concerted efforts to foster a culture where young people in difficulty, at whatever stage in their lives, do not hesitate to seek help; a culture that recognises the signs and signals of distress and is willing to help, and a culture which focuses on developing good coping skills and avoiding harmful practices.

We are fortunate to have a blueprint for the development of mental health services; ‘A Vision for Change’ which was adopted as Government policy as the basis for the development of our mental health services over a 7 to 10 year period.

The Report proposes a holistic view of mental illness and recommends an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to addressing the biological, psychological and social factors that contribute to mental health problems.

When it was it was launched in 2006, ‘A Vision for Change’ was universally welcomed as a progressive, evidence based and realistic document which proposed a new model of service delivery which would be patient-centred, flexible and community based. Of course much has happened and much has changed economically in the four years since the report was launched, but it remains a progressive document and remains our roadmap, charting the way forward for our mental health services.

Budget 2010 has provided for a multi-annual programme of capital investment in high priority mental health projects consistent with ‘A Vision for Change’ to be funded from further disposals. In 2010 the HSE will proceed to dispose of surplus assets and reinvest an initial sum of €43m in the mental health capital programme. Provision for continued funding of the programme will be made in the 2011 Estimates and subsequent years, in the light of the previous year’s programme of asset sales.

The mental health capital programme will provide a range of facilities across the entire spectrum of mental healthcare facilities including acute psychiatric units, child and adolescent units, day hospitals, community nursing units and high support hostels, and will provide the infrastructure necessary to enable its transformation into a patient-centred, flexible and community based mental health service, where the need for hospital admission is greatly reduced, whilst still providing in-patient care when appropriate. In conclusion it gives me great pleasure to launch this publication which provides us with a wonderful insight into the core issues of students’ mental health.

Thank you.