An In­no­va­tive Ap­proach TO MEN­TAL HEALTH IN GAL­WAY

With men­tal health cafés hav­ing been in­tro­duced suc­cess­fully in the UK, Niall Ó Tuathail of the So­cial Democrats is push­ing to have one opened in Gal­way city. RE­PORT Laura Grainger

Hot Press - - Highfield Healthcare -

As we ap­proach Men­tal Health Week, the on­go­ing men­tal well-be­ing of Ir­ish peo­ple is be­ing recog­nised as a ma­jor is­sue, to a greater ex­tent than ever be­fore. And rightly so. The 2016 cen­sus showed that there has been a 29% in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple in Ire­land who iden­tify as liv­ing with a psy­cho­log­i­cal or emo­tional con­di­tion.

Unicef Ire­land, mean­while, es­ti­mates that Ire­land’s teen sui­cide rate is the fourth high­est in the world, among high-in­come coun­tries. That is a stark statis­tic, which un­der­lines just how im­por­tant it is for us all to do bet­ter. Which is why Hot Press’ part­ner­ship with Lyons Tea and Pi­eta House is so im­por­tant: to read the col­lected 100 Voices of Ir­ish mu­si­cians, writ­ers and well known per­son­al­i­ties from sport, broad­cast­ing and so­cial me­dia speak­ing out with such hon­esty and col­lec­tive pur­pose is gen­uinely a won­der­ful thing.

New ini­tia­tives of this kind are to be hugely wel­comed. The same ap­plies to the idea for en­tal ealth afjs q with the first one pro­posed for Gal­way.

So­cial Democrats’ Gal­way West can­di­date, Niall Ó Tuathail, is the man be­hind the at­tempt to bring a ‘men­tal health cafe’ to the City of the Tribes. Hav­ing worked on health re­form in the NHS, Niall be­lieves Ire­land could learn from the UK model.

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“It's called a night cafe,” Niall says. “It's not a clinic or wait­ing room, it's a cafe en­vi­ron­ment. Peo­ple can go in there and be by them­selves. Or they can talk with oth­ers or go into a group ther­apy session. If some­one's re­ally in dis­tress, they can be as­sessed and ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal.”

Niall says this model is work­ing well in the UK. In the area where he worked, pop­u­lated by around 500,000 peo­ple, there were five of these cafés. Health­care Leader re­ports that one such café (lo­cated on the Hamp­shire-Sur­rey bor­der) helped to re­duce men­tal health hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions by a third within its first seven months of open­ing.

The cafés op­er­ate on an evening-only ba­sis, usu­ally from around 6pm un­til 11pm or mid­night. That is a time of day dur­ing which a lot of peo­ple feel vul­ner­a­ble.

“The peo­ple who use the ser­vice love it,” Niall says of UK users. “Men­tal health groups have ac­tively been push­ing for the HSE to make a ser­vice like that avail­able here.”

Niall’s contacts within the NHS have been help­ful in pro­vid­ing a guide for the start-up of an Ir­ish ser­vice, which he hopes would be -tate‡run. /he team behnd r 7afye, a restau­rant on New­cas­tle Road in Gal­way, have al­ready of­fered their premises rent-free for the first night‡time serviVe in al­way.

But Niall ul­ti­mately wants to see these cafes pop­ping up around the coun­try.

“I've been work­ing within the HSE and peo­ple there like the idea,” he says. “We’re mak­ing good progress. We've been work­ing on this Gal­way ser­vice for over two years, and it's look­ing like we’ll get it over the line by next year.”

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