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
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 -taterun. /he team behnd r 7afye, a restaurant on Newcastle Road in Galway, have already offered their premises rent-free for the first nighttime 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.”