Speaking Points for Minister Moloney T.D., Launch of the Mental Health Commission’s “Headspace Toolkit”

I am delighted to be here this evening to launch the Commission’s Headspace Toolkit. I commend the Commission on the development of this resource pack and web site which I believe will provide invaluable assistance to young persons who need to be admitted to an approved centre.

The toolkit gives young people information and practical advice about their admission and encourages them to speak up for themselves, assert their rights and become involved in decisions concerning their care and treatment.

To be admitted as a child to a mental health facility can be traumatic and quite frightening, but this Toolkit in a simple and age appropriate manner, provides information on what the young person can expect when they go into hospital, what their rights are, who they can talk to. It seeks to engage the child, encouraging them to take part in decisions about their care and treatment and by doing so helps the child in their journey to recovery.

The development of the Toolkit is in line with the Quality Framework for Mental Health Services which was published by the Mental Health Commission in 2007. One of the themes of that framework is of empowering service users and promoting active involvement in their care and treatment through the provision of information, exercising choice and rights and by making advocacy services available to them. The availability of this Toolkit will ensure that our younger service users will be equipped with the information and knowledge to enable them to actively participate and lead their own recovery.

I join with the Commission in hoping that this self advocacy and rights based toolkit will lead to young people being more involved in their care and treatment and that it will encourage the further development of advocacy services for young people experiencing mental health problems and empowering them to assert their rights within the mental health service.

For young people, mental health is a great concern. Youth is a very vulnerable time and it is a time when 75% of mental illness emerges. It is critical that we provide within our communities the kinds of support children need to prevent a lifetime of needless pain and suffering.

A Vision for Change provides a framework for the development of our mental health services and proposes the development of a comprehensive child and adolescent service for children up to the age of 18 years. Traditionally adult mental health services have been responsible for the 16/17 year old age group and admissions to approved centres in that age group were to adult facilities. The Mental Health Commission has recently issued an addendum to the Code of Practice relating to the admission of children under the Mental Health Act 2001 which seeks to ensure that by 1st December 2011, no child under 18 years will be admitted to an adult psychiatric unit.

A Vision for Change will be implemented over a period of 7 to 10 years and, as such, must be viewed as a work in progress. As part of the process of implementation there is a need to expand the child and adolescent service to enable it to cater for 16 and 17 year olds. In this regard the HSE has prioritised the development of child and adolescent services and there has been significant improvements in such services in recent years.

In-patient capacity has more than doubled since 2008 and we now have 30 dedicated child and adolescent beds – 10 in Galway, 12 in Dublin and 8 beds in Cork. Indeed I had the great pleasure last year to officially open the new child and adolescent units at St Stephen’s Hospital Cork and at St Vincent’s Hospital Dublin. In addition, two 20 bed units are under construction at Bessboro, Cork and Merlin Park, Galway. It is anticipated that construction will be completed on both of these developments and the beds commissioned in 2010. Further beds will be provided in the context of the HSE Mental Health Capital Programme.

Budget 2010 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 future disposals. In 2010, the HSE may proceed to dispose of surplus assets and reinvest an initial sum of €50m 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.

In providing more child and adolescent beds however, I am conscious that we must take care to ensure that our services do not become imbalanced in favour of in-patient treatment. The capital programme will therefore also provide for community facilities in terms of day hospitals and outpatient clinics. Only those children with the most severe disorders should be admitted as in-patients and when admitted, the aim of the service must be to discharge the child back to their family and ongoing care in the community at the earliest possible date. The establishment of further multi-disciplinary Child and Adolescent Mental Health Teams is therefore a priority for the HSE; at present there are 55 teams in place throughout the country and a further 8 teams are in development.

Work is advancing on the development of services in line with A Vision for Change. But I feel that there is also much to be done in changing hearts and minds and in this we all have a role to play. We must 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, a culture which focuses on developing good coping skills and avoiding harmful practices and a culture which embraces difference and where there is no place for stigma.

I believe that by working together we can, and will, turn the tide on the stigma associated with mental illness. I give you my personal commitment that I will work tirelessly to this agenda and in this regard I know that I have, and can rely on, the support and commitment of both Hugh and his staff, and my colleague Minister Andrews and his Office, and all those working in the mental health services.

Finally, may I congratulate the Commission on a job expertly done. This innovative Toolkit will considerably ease the burden for children who need in patient treatment in a mental health facility and who may be frightened and at loss to understand their situation. This toolkit provides the tools to help guide them through what is happening to them and help them to understand it and help them focus on recovery.

Thank you.