Report finds people with mental health difficulties need better availability of support to make decisions and access public services

Mental Health Reform has today launched a new report entitled, The Advocacy Needs of Mental Health Service Users Living in the Community: A Pilot Study. The report examines the need for independent, one-to-one advocacy supports for people who use mental health services and who need help to make decisions or access their rights and entitlements. The study surveyed 76 people who use mental health services in a major urban area. The report was launched by the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Shari McDaid, Director of Mental Health Reform and Principal Investigator in the study, said, “We hear too often that people do not have a voice in decisions about their own mental health treatment. This report shows that some people with mental health difficulties lack the confidence to raise concerns about public services that they receive, including mental health services. When these situations arise, people should have access to an independent, one-to-one advocate, so that they can have their views heard in decisions about their treatment and have their rights and entitlements fully respected.”

Dr. McDaid continued, “The significant picture that emerges from this report is that for a group of people who use mental health services in an area of high deprivation and poverty, there is a clear need for greater access to advocacy supports, as well as information on how to make a complaint to the HSE. It is very significant that two-thirds of participants in this study did not know how to make a complaint about the HSE mental health services. The HSE mental health services should be proactive in explaining to service users how they can make a complaint and encourage both negative and positive feedback. Overall, the Minister of Social Protection, the Minister of State for Mental Health and the relevant agencies (Citizens Information Board and HSE) should review the findings of this report and consider how they can ensure that the scope and capacity of publicly-funded advocacy services are adequate to meet the needs of people with long-term mental health difficulties living in the community.”

Launching the report, the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall said, “I greatly welcome the publication of this report.  Often, people receiving treatment for mental health difficulties will greatly benefit from the support of an independent advocate to guide them through the system, help them to understand their condition and treatment, and to get answers to questions that are troubling them.  Of equal importance from my perspective is that an independent advocate can help a service user to complain when they’re not happy.  The high percentage of people who don’t know how to complain revealed by the survey is sadly not a surprise to me, but it is essential that we learn from people’s experience of their services, and especially any mistakes, if we are to improve services for the future.”


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