Caidreamh-Engage, May 2017

Fáilte - Welcome to the first issue of Caidreamh-Engage, the E-newsletter from Mental Health Engagement (MHE).

We hope that all who have an interest in mental health – service users, family members/carers, supporters and service providers – as well as the wider community and the policy makers, find it helpful and informative about mental health engagement. 

We believe that the views of all stakeholders can help to bring about even better mental health services in Ireland. We see this being done through a genuine and meaningful partnership.

Service user/family member participation began with the publication, in 2006, of the national policy for mental health, A Vision for Change. The first recommendation of A Vision for Change was that “Involvement of service users and their carers should be a feature of every aspect of service development and delivery.”

A Vision for Change has now passed its tenth birthday and is currently being reviewed with the intention to update it. However, its core recommendation of service user and carer involvement is likely to be reinforced in this review.

Over the last decade, there have been a number of initiatives to implement the recommendations of A Vision for Change on service user/family member involvement. One of these was the establishment of the Reference Group of Service User and Family Members in August, 2014 by the National Mental Health Division, at the HSE, to develop recommendations for the involvement of service users and their carers in the design, development and monitoring of the mental health services. The report of the Reference Group – Partnership for Change - set out the structures now being developed for service user and family member participation. An image of those structures is set out below. The report was launched by Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Helen McEntee, TD in June 2016 and can be accessed here.

The nine Area Leads for Mental Health Engagement, recommended by the Reference Group, have now been appointed and are working in each Community Health Organisation (CHO) around the country. Their job will be to set up the Local and Area Fora to represent the views of service users and their families.

So all the painstaking preparatory work has now been done and we have many people to thank for that – too many to list them all here. We recognise that we are setting out on the road to implement Partnership for Change. We hope you will join with us on this challenging, innovative and, above all, hopeful journey.  After all, as the Irish proverb has it: “Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine”.

Our Team

For those who have not met us up to now, we would like to introduce you to our national team at MHE. The team is:

  • Liam Hennessy (Head and member of the National Mental Health Division, Senior Management Team)
  • Gerry Maley (Business Manager)
  • Catherine  O’Grady (Business Manager)

Liam, Gerry or Catherine can be contacted at our new offices in St Lomans Hospital, Palmerstown or by emailing Contact details for each of our nine Area Leads, can be found here.

Area Leads for Mental Health Engagement, 1.1

Pictured are the Area Leads for Mental Health Engagement: back row (from left to right) Margaret Duggan, Aoife Boland, Charles Searson, Catherina Brady, Paul Fallon and Patrick Nwaokorie. Front row (from left to right) Colette Tuohy, Rory Doody and Duana McArdle.

Our Structures

Mental Health Engagement, Structure and Roles 1.jpg

View larger image here

Partnering to date

Before putting the local and area structures in place – which will be the way to gather and implement the views of service users and their supporters – MHE has held a series of meetings with mental health management teams in almost all the Community Health Organisations (CHOs) and with existing consumer panels and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to “spread the word” and to build partnerships.

National Mental Health Operational Plan for 2017

The HSE National Mental Health Division’s Operational Plan for 2017 has five priorities:

  • Mental Health Priority 1: Promote the mental health of the population in collaboration with other services and agencies including loss of life by suicide.
  • Mental Health Priority 2: Design integrated, evidence based and recovery focused mental health services.
  • Mental Health Priority 3: Deliver timely, clinically effective and standardised safe mental health services in adherence to statutory requirements.
  • Mental Health Priority 4: Ensure that the views of service users, family members and carers are central to the design and delivery of mental health services.
  • Mental Health Priority 5: Enable the provision of mental health services by highly trained and engaged staff and fit for purpose infrastructure.

The actions to be taken to implement these priorities can be viewed here on the HSE website. While all are equally important, obviously, Priority 4 has most immediate relevance to Mental Health Engagement. For this reason, we set out some of the main actions to be taken to ensure Priority 4 is achieved in 2017 as follows:

  • The appointment of a Service User/Family Member/Carer as Area Lead for MHE to each CHO Area Mental Health Management Team.
  • Support and development structures established for the Area Leads for MHE.
  • Capacity building model developed and training available.
  • Examine feedback and data collection systems for CHOs, and support development of structures with the Area Leads of MHE.
  • Support the establishment of the role of the Area Lead through close work with CHOs.
  • Establishment of 9 Area Forums.
  • Local Forums operating in 50 per cent of County Areas.
  • Mental Health Division engagement with the HSE Multi Divisional Carers Strategy Implementation Group in place.

We hope you will help us to keep on track to ensure these actions are completed successfully in 2017.

Themes and Issues

The main issues which have come up so far are the needs of families and carers of service users in their contact with the mental health services. There has been a growing groundswell of opinion that those needs may not be met fully in the services at present and this has been reflected in conferences and papers prepared on the subject. The major concerns here are the rules around and use of service user confidentiality and the involvement of family members in care planning. Service user confidentiality is, of course, a cardinal principle in medical ethics and data protection laws. MHE and other colleagues in the HSE have set up an informal group to study and report on these concerns and would hope to develop proposals on them in 2017. 

Another issue which has come to the attention of MHE is the recognition that involvement in engagement cannot just simply happen. Some participants may need training and capacity building to help them to participate fully and confidently.

Finally, MHE has had a focus, in a number of ways, on the proposals for 24/7 access to relevant services, the mental health challenges facing young people and marginalised groups in Irish society.

Some Principles

As with any new engagement venture where people with different views come together with a common purpose, we believe it is a good thing to have some basic principles for the engagement process.  The following sets out the principles we have been discussing at various meetings throughout the country:

  • Respect always for each other’s views and positions
  • Courteous dealing
  • Incrementalism is not ignoble or make small gains where possible
  • Compromise and consensus is the way forward
  • Partnership is the way that engagement and participation will be done
  • Care for each other’s wellbeing.

An buille scoir

Helen Keller Quote

We began this first edition of Engage-Caidreamh with the Irish saying, “Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine”. We could translate this literally but think the words of Helen Keller – an extraordinarily courageous and effective innovator in her own right – do the job even better: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

This page was last updated on 30th May 2017.