In a recent article in Irish Medical Times, Dr Anna Data and Justin Frewen examine the crucial role citizen advocacy can play in addressing the many clinical, economic and political issues facing the mental health services.
Mental health problems in 2006, alone, was estimated at €3 billion, with €2 billion lost in economic output and a further €1 billion disbursed on health and social care together with other forms of direct care.
As the WHO has emphasised, advocacy can be extremely useful in raising the awareness of both the political community and general public as to the possibility of effectively treating most mental disorders.
In the article, they identify a range of mental health issues in Ireland that could benefit from advocacy. These include, inter alia, highlighting the gradual proportional reduction in the health budget allocated to mental health; the lack of parity in how mental and physical health issues are addressed and handled; the inequitable delivery of mental health services nationwide; the allocation of funds according to historical rather than current needs; the shortfall in adequate housing for mental health patients in transition, a significant factor in the 70 per cent readmission rate; and the scarcity of employment opportunities for mental health service users trying to ‘reintegrate’ into society.
A well-resourced advocacy infrastructure could play an invaluable role in mobilising the political will to tackle these issues and ensure the allocation of sufficient resources to improve service delivery and close the current treatment gap.
While the acknowledge that Ireland does have a number of mental health organisations that are engaged in advocacy activities, they argue that they could certainly benefit from well-targeted support and closer collaboration with the Department of Health and Children.
See http://www.imt.ie/opinion/2010/03/advocacy_can_put_mental_health.html for the full article.