Mental health: ‘We are all social animals’

    Dr Mike Watts

    LIFELINKour city and county’s umbrella group for organisations State, Voluntary and Community involved with mental health, hosted their seventh annual seminar for World Suicide Prevention Day last Friday.

    ‘What’s Happening? – around mental health in Kilkenny’ discussed the challenges and supports in the mental health services nationally and locally.

    Tracy Nugent, Regional Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention outlined the new county plan ‘Connecting for Life Kilkenny’.

    Michael Norton

    Part of its vision is to have an Ireland “where communities and individuals are empowered to improve their mental health and wellbeing”.

    Friday’s seminar saw how that work has started.  The new HSE structures around the provision of services are seeking to take account of the experiences of those living with mental ill-health, their families and carers.

    “It is,” Michael Norton said, “a bottom up approach that tries to find solutions to problems that service users and their families face by involving those with a lived experience of the services,”

    While there is no doubt about the huge challenges within the HSE, there was also an acknowledgement of the very good work on the ground locally.

    The common thread running through all of the presentations was that connection to others is important for our physical and mental wellbeing.

    “We are all social animals who need to be connected to others for our wellbeing,” said Trish Finegan, chair of Lifelink.

    “As Mike Watts put it in his wonderful presentation, ‘we need to create a social womb of recovery, where we can support and nurture one another’.”

    Fiona McKernan

    Providing a welcoming, safe space to sit and talk without judgement is the beginning of recovery.

    Teac Tom and The Recovery College South East provide this space for their visitors.

    Rory Connellan of Teac Tom said that it is important that the first contact a person has with the service is a friendly human voice, either on the ‘phone or in person at their drop-in centre on the Ormonde Road.

    “It is vital that the person in distress, who has the courage to pick up the phone to seek help is met with a friendly, welcoming, human voice, and from there is directed to timely appropriate intervention,” he said.

    Fiona McKernan quoted Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

    Valuing peer support in recovery is a new concept within the HSE and it has in place peer support workers within the mental health services.

    Michael Norton is one such worker with The Involvement Centre in Colliers Lane.

    He explained that he uses his ongoing recovery and experience of mental ill-health to support others in their recovery journey.

    “We do not deliver recovery, we provide a therapeutic space whereby service users begin to explore their recover,” he said.

    The messages that came from the seminar were that what is required is a recovery orientated mental health service for those with mental ill-health but we also need preventative measures in place.

    That we must all acknowledge that we have mental health that, just like our physical health, needs to be looked after and teach individuals and communities how to do that.

    And that if you are not okay, that is part of life, that it is okay not to feel okay and that there are supports out there that will help with your recovery.

    Some important contacts for your diary include: www.yourmentalhealth.ie; The Samaritans Listening Service 116 123; Teac Tom 056-7796592 or 087-6566377.