Speeches

Speech for Minister Moloney opening the new development at Sweetmans Avenue, for the Detect/Delta and Reach service

I am delighted to be here today and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to officially open this new premise for the Detect/Delta and Reach programmes. I would like to thank Brother Gregory Mc Crory for inviting me and I would like to compliment everyone associated with both of these very worthwhile projects.

The World Health Organisation says that “there is no health without mental health” and I strongly believe in this message. Mental health promotion is key to changing attitudes about mental health across society. We need to do this as only then can we tackle the stigma and discrimination that people with mental health problems can experience.

Mental health promotion should be seen in the same way as we see public health – it should be fundamental to our view of health. Making small changes can prevent problems escalating and we need to increase the basic awareness of what we can do to maintain our mental health as part of our normal lifestyle.

We can only increase this basic awareness and mainstream thinking about mental wellbeing by widening our horizons and working in partnership with organisations and community-based initiatives outside the traditional “mental health” field.

I believe that by acting on the principles and recommendations of “A Vision for Change” we will develop and strengthen our mental health care system as a whole, but most importantly it will also help us to respond to the needs of those individuals who avail of that system. In particular, I think it will:

•support the delivery of mental health promotion
•promote early intervention so we can prevent more serious problems developing in the future – particularly in relation to the pathways into the criminal justice system that some troubled young people take
•help in the long term to reduce dependence on traditional psychiatric beds as the mainstay of the mental health service; and last but not least
•improve the quality of care, promote choice, and promote social inclusion for people with mental health problems who can too easily get disconnected from work, education, their families and friends.

Back in 2004 the Delta Project was initiated and funded by the St. John of God Hospitaller services for 5 years from its own resources. The people living in the Cluain Mhuire service catchment area and patients of the St. John of God Hospital were the original beneficiaries.

In 2006 the HSE provided funding to extend and develop the service to the Newcastle and Elm Mount Mental Health Services and the Delta Project was extended to DETECT (Dublin and East Treatment and Early Care Team).

Psychosis can affect more than 70,000 Irish people and 1,000 new cases are diagnosed annually, mostly in their early 20s. The personal and family distress is considerable and the risk of suicide is 20 times that of the general population.

Those affected can be suffering for up to 2 years before they receive effective treatment. During this time their quality of life diminishes, they lose key occupational and social skills and are at increased risk of suicide. Many may experience loneliness and social exclusion. Furthermore this lengthy time delay is a key determinant whether the person will recover or not.

Other countries have shown that the way to improve outcomes for these people is to reduce the delay by detecting the illness earlier and treating it effectively. Health service planners in several countries have already instituted national plans and developed specific services to improve outcome and promote recovery. They have shown that the strategy can and does work.

Thankfully, preventive interventions in psychotic disorders are now a realistic proposition. The approach of DETECT is consistent with ‘A Vision for Change’. The core principle underlying this policy is that people suffering from any form of ill health should be enabled to live as independently as possible.

‘A Vision for Change’ acknowledges the relationship between the length of time it takes to respond to an individual’s first experience of psychosis and the long-term outcome for that service user.

This is the first Early Intervention in Psychosis project in Ireland. The service provides rapid assessment, phase specific treatments and professional and community education programmes for psychosis and involves four catchment services: Newcastle Mental Health Service, The Cluain Mhuire Service, St John of God Hospital and St Vincent’s University Hospital incorporating Elm Mount.

The Reach Training programme is a very successful joint Cluain Mhuire Service and FAS collaboration. The programme is a ‘back to work’ certified training programme for persons affected by Mental Health difficulties. Lasting up to 32 weeks, the course can cater for up to 30 participants undertaking FETAC modules in both a classroom setting and real work environment.

This new property is specifically designed for the needs of the DETECT/Delta programmes and the Reach Programme for young people. I would like to commend everyone involved in the DETECT /Delta service and the Reach programme and to wish you continued success in the future.

I also wish to commend the development of both the delta project and detect websites. Many people with a mental disorder may not access help from mental health services initially and websites like yours can be a useful tool for disseminating mental health information for individuals who remain untreated. While many people feel that information delivered face-to-face is likely to be helpful, websites and other tools that maintain anonymity may be preferred by those who choose to or find themselves dealing with mental illness alone. I would hope that those affected would see these sites as only a stepping stone to coming forward and seeking treatment for their illness and ultimately, their recovery.

I recognise the many challenges that lie ahead but I want to assure all here today that this Government is fully committed to the continued development of our mental health services. I welcome, in particular, the establishment of the Office for Disability and Mental Health which will support me in the exercise of my functions in relation to disability and mental health, across four Government Departments. In relation to mental health, the Office will focus in particular on driving the implementation of ‘A Vision for Change’ and will, I am confident, lead to more coherent policy making and the more effective use of resources. The establishment of this Office makes the political commitment to mental health, a reality. I am confident that we can build on the substantial progress to date so that we can all work together to bring about a mental health service worthy of the Ireland of the 21st century.