We wanted to take some time to reflect on Mental Health Reform’s first year in action – chiefly to say “Thank you” to everybody who helped us throughout the year.
Mental Health Reform relies on its members for their experience, skills and ideas. We know that our strength is derived from our membership. We have grown from 5 to 22 member organisations over the course of the year. Our strong membership allows Mental Health Reform to campaign effectively for improved mental health services in Ireland. With our members, Mental Health Reform is establishing itself as the umbrella organisation of the mental health reform movement in Ireland.
We set out, at the start of 2011, with a number of key asks: the need to appoint a Director with single pointed accountability and budgetary powers, the commitment in the Programme for Government to ring-fence €35m from within the health budget to develop community mental health teams and the publication of a fully costed implementation plan.
Together with our members and supporters, we fought a tough and ultimately successful budget campaign. Our petition to ‘Fight for Mental Health’ in Budget 2012, which we launched with boxing legends Michael Carruth and Eric Donovan, was signed by over 6,000 people! That is a clear sign of the level of support that we have experienced. We held many meetings with politicians and the Cross Party Group on Mental Health throughout the year and really put mental health on the political agenda.
Our statements in relation to staffing and need for funding were quoted regularly in the papers and Orla Barry, our director, featured on a number of TV and Radio programmes on the topic. We also held a series of public consultation meetings around the country to inform our Agenda for Action and ask service users to get involved in our campaign.
This sort of action cannot be ignored by politicians and mental health was prioritised in the capital expenditure programme, where the commitment for a new Central Mental Hospital was one of four major capital expenditure projects for 2012.
Crucially, the Minister also announced that €35 million would be made available this year to develop community mental health services, fund suicide prevention strategy Reach Out and invest in a counselling and psychotherapy programme at primary care level.
But, our work did not stop with the budgetary announcements. Mental Health Reform, immediately after the budget announcements, began to highlight the importance of a Director for Mental Health to ensure this money is used for its intended purpose. We also renewed our calls for an Implementation Plan.
You sent thousands of emails to politicians asking them not to waste this opportunity and to put in place a Director for Mental Health Services. As a result, the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD has announced that he will put in place a Directorate for Mental Health as one of the 7 Directorates which are being put in place as the new governing structure of the HSE.
In revue, we have had some successes in 2011 and we want to have many more successes in 2012. Mental health services in Ireland are far behind international good practice. We will launch our Agenda for Action, which lists a number of pragmatic, realistic steps towards full implementation of A Vision for Change by 2016 in March. We have a long way to go, but with your help and your activism, we will continue to drive the agenda for change.