Inaugural Limerick Forum - What Was It Like?

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by Owen Finnegan, September 2017

Things are changing. They’re changing for the better.

Once a month the HSE in Limerick is hosting a Forum where people who have used the mental health services or family members of those who have used the services can come together to voice their experiences, raise issues, be consulted and involved in mental health service developments in their area. The Forum meets at the GROW office on Henry Street. 

Aoife Boland (Area Lead for Mental Health Engagement in CHO3 Limerick/Clare/North Tipperary) facilitated the inaugural Limerick Forum. She has a wealth of experience and expertise because, like us, she has been through the system. Who better to be a voice for us than someone with their own lived experience? 

Our first Forum was held on the 30th of June. Aoife started off by telling us a little about herself and her history. She spoke about her desire to have family members and service users working together to create a better mental health service. This is the aim of the Forum. Any successful campaign, project, role or job must engage in critical analysis and feedback to ensure that things run effectively and at maximum capacity and quality. This is what we are trying to achieve.

I had the privilege of attending the first Forum meeting. The enthusiasm from those who attended was very promising. It was great to see the desire and the yearning of those who attended and their commitment to getting involved in improving the services available. This is a dream come true for me because, like us all, I have been through the system and have had great and some not so great experiences of using the services. My desire for many years was to do my best to help change things so that people like me could have a better experience all round. Thankfully, because of the establishment of the Office for Mental Health Engagement (MHE) and the development of my Local Forum, I can take part in changing things for the better.

Like any group, it is important to have some ground rules. Because groups tend to evolve over time, these rules are subject to change. The rules are pretty standard.  Essentially, they ensure that people are respected and treated correctly. This includes listening to one another, respecting opinions and so forth.  These rules are read out loud before the meeting commences. 

As an introduction, Aoife wanted to know why people were showing up to the Forum. Some of the feedback was that the group wanted to meet people, learn more about mental health, help others and to see changes in the services available. They wanted to be educated on what services were out there that can help someone recover, how to interact effectively with professionals and to know what exactly each professional does. The overall consensus was to reduce stigma associated with people who have mental health difficulties. 

In the future, we shall look at getting more information and education and be consulted and involved in mental health services development and delivery in our area. So for service users and family members, the Limerick Forum gives you a voice and a listening ear.

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