Fighting mental health problems

Published 28/08/2013|05:44

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Ireland's continuously high suicide rate and the prevalence of depression (afflicting over 300,000 people nationwide) have brought the issue of mental health services to the forefront of the public agenda in recent years.

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Ireland's continuously high suicide rate and the prevalence of depression (afflicting over 300,000 people nationwide) have brought the issue of mental health services to the forefront of the public agenda in recent years.

However, the infrastructure for facilitating said services remains underdeveloped, with numerous mental health posts across the country guaranteed at the start to of the year remaining unfilled.

To alleviate this - and combat the stigma surrounding mental health issues - local, voluntary initiatives have become more vital than ever. The Wicklow Mental Health Association is one of these groups.

Set up in 2000, the association conducts regular monthly information evenings and courses as well as maintaining a mental health section in the Wicklow County Library. It sees the provision of information as its primary purpose, believing this can equip people in their struggle against mental health problems.

The association held its first information evening in 2005 and continues to host regular workshops and information evenings on topics relating to children such as autism, ADHD, conflict resolution and cyber bullying, as well as information evenings on mental health issues such as Alzheimer's and dementia, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis and eating disorders. It also hosts evenings which are directly focused on positive psychology and self esteem.

In 2009 it began teaching ASIST and SafeTalk suicide first aid courses training 95 people to recognise suicidal ideation (ideas of suicide) aimed at reducing the loss of lives in our communities.

In 2011, the organisation partnered with County Wicklow VEC, County Wicklow Volunteer Centre and Wicklow Sports Partnership in a Building Resilience Together Programme designed to engage people in education, volunteering and sport to help people to get through difficult times and help them build self esteem and community spirit.

'It has an important role to play,' says Chairperson Charlie Burke of the association's role of supplementing mental health services in the county. 'From an information point of view, it can help empower people.'

Charlie sees a clear divide in the attitude to mental health between young and old, with the openness of the younger generation contrasting with the apathy or denial of their elders.

'Ten years ago, it was much more difficult to get into schools to deliver information,' he claims. 'Now younger people are far more aware about mental health issues, but the older generation are not quite as intoned.'

Despite this dichotomy, Charlie maintains that the shift towards a more open attitude to mental health in Wicklow and Ireland is gathering momentum across all age groups, helped by the government's commitment to the issue.

'A lot more is being done on it,' he enthuses. 'There's still a lot more to do, but people are a lot more proactive. Attitudes to mental health have changed dramatically among young people who are now more likely to talk through their problems with friends and families as a result of the introduction of classes dedicated to mental health introduced in secondary schools. There is very real progress with a minister [Kathleen Lynch] now dedicated to mental health'

Anyone wishing to volunteer for the association can contact Charlie on 0862124211. Alternatively, information on where to seek assistance with mental health problems can be found on the association's website, www.wicklowmentalhealth.org

Wicklow People

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