Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Mental Health action demands resources and genuine collaboration

12 January, 2005

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O Dowd speaking about the need for effective measures emanating from the World Health Organisations (WHO) European conference on Mental Health in Helsinki said:

"Mental health treatment needs to be properly resourced and the basic human rights of people with mental health problems need to be protected. Sinn Féin notes and supports Amnesty International call for 'inextricable links between respect for international human rights standards and national mental health systems be reflected in the action plan coming from the WHO Helsinki conference'.

"Governments and society must recognise the value of the individual with mental health problems. Sinn Féin believes that services for people with a mental health illness should be geared towards the needs and wishes of the individual, rather than the individual having to conform to the norms of the service or being locked into a prejudiced stereotypical image of people with mental health problems.

"For the WHO conference action plan to be effective on the ground it must tackle the widespread problem of the lack of a rights base for the services received (and in many cases, sought but not received) by mental health illness suffers and an even less certain provision of services for family carers.

"This should be based on the development of a range of effective policies and programmes directed towards increasing inclusion, in developing the abilities of people with Mental illness themselves, in meeting the aspirations of and acknowledging the determination of their family carers and other advocates and in the provision dedicated staff at all levels.

"In the North Mental health services have had too low a priority within Government planning and have depended on determined individuals for the service to survive. In the Investing for Health Strategy developed by the former Health Minister, Bairbre De Brún, the need for cross-departmental collaboration and co-operation was seen as vital, but true agency collaboration still remains a long way off. Collaboration is a commitment to meet together and to plan and work jointly. At its most developed, collaboration must include families and carers and people with Mental illness themselves all sharing and actively participating in the necessary decision-making process.

"It is also unrealistic to believe that a Mental health strategy, bringing real improvements in the range and quality of opportunities available to people, can be delivered without extra resources, a point which Dr David Bamford, the chair of the present Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability, made very forcibly and public through his open letter to the NIO minister of Finance, Ian Pearson.

"The WHO conference calls on Government delegates to follow on from the conference with meaningful change to lives of people with mental health illness, the Bamford Review is ongoing but as I have said earlier if its recommendations are not properly resourced then the British government will have failed the WHO and most importantly of all will have failed those people with a mental health illness. ENDS

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