Mental Health - Our Services

If you or a loved one feels they have a mental health problem:
Your family doctor or GP is usually the first person to approach in relation to mental health concerns. Many people go to their family doctor (GP) with mental health problems such as depression or anxiety and will not need the help of a psychiatrist. In other cases, the GP may decide to refer the person to members of the mental health team such as a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist or addiction counsellor. In an emergency situation, when your GP is not available, you may access the mental health services through your local mental health unit or hospital.

The mental health service has changed considerably over the last twenty years or so. These changes have been and are driven by Irish Government policies, changing patient populations and the closure or dismantling of the large mental institutions. This has resulted in the development of better care and a more supportive service to individuals with mental illness.

The HSE provides a comprehensive range of community-based mental health services. Services provided are caring and confidential. Read below for a description of the different types of services provided, or find Mental Health Services in your area here.


When you are referred to a psychiatrist
Out-patient and community services
Out-patient clinic
Day hospital
Day centre
Sheltered workshop
In-patient services
Acute admission ward
Continuing care ward
Rehabilitation ward
Special care unit or secure ward
Care of the elderly unit
Occupational therapy
Residential units
High support group home
Medium support group home
Low support group home

 

When you are referred to a psychiatrist:
An out-patient appointment will usually occur within a few weeks of referral or, in an emergency, an immediate appointment can be arranged. The psychiatrist will meet with you to discuss your mental health problems and to explain the treatment options available, which may include a course of medication.

Treatment options include out-patient care: out-patient clinics (clients referred by GPs), day hospitals, day centres, home visits from the mental health team, referral to clinical psychological services, referral to addiction counselling services, access to social work or occupational therapy services and referral back to your GP for continuous care.

In-patient care, normally of short duration is provided, when a person is admitted to a psychiatric unit in hospital.

Most people who have mental health problems are treated without going to hospital or go to hospital for treatment by choice. If you are admitted, you will be known in this situation as a voluntary patient.

Occasionally someone may have to be admitted for mental health treatment and care against their will. This is called 'involuntary admission'. You can only be admitted against your will if it is considered you meet the conditions for involuntary admission. These conditions are the rules set out in the law to ensure you are only admitted involuntarily if it is absolutely necessary. A mental health tribunal will review this decision. Further information on involuntary admissions is available from the Mental Health Commission website.

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Out-patient and community services
The aim of out-patient and community services is to treat and support individuals in their own homes and communities where possible. Family doctors (GPs) are central to the delivery of community care services.

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Out-patient clinic
This is a clinic in the community people attend, most usually by appointment, from their homes or care setting for either an assessment, follow-up or continuing management of their mental illness. These facilities are often based in community health centres and are staffed by a consultant psychiatrist, community psychiatric nurses and other members of the mental health team, as required. A consultant psychiatrist leads the psychiatric team. This psychiatrist will be responsible for the treatment of the person whether in the community or in hospital.

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Day hospital
This is a day facility where people with mental illness can attend from their home or care setting for an assessment, treatment or nursing care. It is for those people who are unwell but who can also be cared for in their homes, for a period of time, without needing a hospital admission. The consultant psychiatrist who sees the person in the out-patient clinic will usually treat them in the day hospital also.

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Day centre
This is a community setting where people attend voluntarily from their home or care setting for continuing support. It is staffed by psychiatric nurses and, occasionally, occupational therapists. The aim is to provide a friendly and supportive environment with activities suited to the needs of each individual. It is not unusual for some people to attend a day centre for a long period of time. For others, a short period is all that is required.

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Sheltered workshop
This is a community facility where the emphasis is on people with mental illness working in areas suited to their skills or needs with support and guidance from trained staff.

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In-patient services
In-patient services refer to medical and nursing care that is provided in a mental health facility, which is usually a hospital. In the broadest sense, a hospital is a group of supports and services that are typically delivered at a fixed location. The traditional large psychiatric hospitals that were often known as institutions are now being replaced by smaller psychiatric units attached to general hospitals. The advantage to the patient lies in the availability and easier access to services. Read more about this policy, entitled Vision for Change, here.

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Acute admission ward
This is an area of the hospital where patients are cared for on admission for treatment and assessment of their presenting problem. After treatment, the vast majority of patients will be discharged home and follow-up care is provided by the out-patients clinic or day hospital. However, some patients may be transferred from an admission unit to a continuing care ward, a rehabilitation ward or a care of the elderly ward, according to their needs.

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Continuing care ward
This is an in-patient facility that provides care for patients who often have long-term enduring mental illness. A small percentage will be discharged to another facility, i.e., a residential unit. This unit may be used as a respite area for those patients in the community who have this need.

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Rehabilitation ward
This is an in-patient facility where the emphasis of care is on re-skilling patients with everyday living skills. This is done in order to improve their quality of life and help them regain a level of independence that will enable them to live in their homes or a residential facility.

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Special care unit or secure ward
Sometimes it may be necessary to care for and treat a patient in a safe and restricted environment due to the nature of their mental illness. This is usually a small unit within a hospital setting staffed by highly trained psychiatric nurses. The unit is locked and the environment is secure. Patients who, because of their mental illness, have disturbed behaviour that does not respond to treatment may require an admission to a secure unit.

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Care of the elderly unit
This is a specialised unit for the 24-hour care and treatment of patients, usually those over 60 years of age, who have a mental illness or associated problems. The environment is designed to meet the needs of the elderly.

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Occupational therapy
This is an in-patient facility for the assessment of particular skills by trained staff. There is an emphasis on improving social skills and concentrating on other essential skills.

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Residential units
Housing is an essential element of care for individuals with a mental illness, particularly for those with long-term mental illness who are so often dependent on the collaboration between hospital and community services in order to maintain a satisfactory existence outside of hospital. Hospital and community services aim to function as partners in the delivery of services to individuals with a mental illness. Some residential units serve as respite areas for those individuals who require this support at different times.

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High support group home
This is a residential home for persons who do not need to be in hospital and who can live in the community but who requires 24-hour nursing care and support for a variety of reasons. Some people may spend a period of time in a high support residence and then move on into a medium or low support residence.

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Medium support group home
This is a residential home for persons who are fairly independent in most areas of their everyday living skills but who require some assistance or support in certain areas, i.e., managing finances or cooking skills. For this reason, the home is staffed, usually by day only, by either a nurse or a trained care staff.

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Low support group home
These residential units are for individuals who are independent in most if not all areas of their everyday living skills. The overall upkeep and management of the group home is co-ordinated by the hospital management. The residents may have a community psychiatric nurse or supervisor who will check on them as required.

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