Mental Health Day Care Services

Older people prioritise honesty in mental health day care services

Elderly people attending day care, for those suffering acute mental health problems, want to be listened to and to be told the truth, a new study has shown.

A non-judgmental attitude by staff and a pleasant “homely” atmosphere in day care centers were also deemed important by service users who worry about the potential stigma involved in mental healthcare.

Dr Geraldine McCarthy, consultant psychiatrist with the Psychiatry of Later Life Service in the north west, said that as life-expectancy in Ireland increases, the mental health needs of older people are becoming increasingly important.

Research was carried out among older people from Sligo, Leitrim, west Cavan and south Donegal who formerly attended a Sligo-based day care facility for people undergoing a mental health crisis, such as a suicide attempt, a recent dementia diagnosis or a new onset psychotic episode.

It probed the experiences of both service users and their carers in a region with a population of 15,500 in the 65-plus age group, the highest proportion of older people in the country.

Dr McCarthy described the findings as “quite positive” and said service users, many with acute mental health problems who were able to get through a crisis period, felt they were listened to by staff .

Respondents stressed the importance of being safe, being treated as individuals, being listened to, understood and being given hope.

Dr McCarthy said the research highlighted the importance of “self-integrity” for people under the care of the mental health services, who worried about the stigma involved.

According to the report, the perception of an “open door” at the center and the pleasant homely atmosphere had a positive impact on service users

The research involved interviews with 13 service users, three male and 10 female, and with six carers, three men and three women. The service users were aged from 68 years to 88 years while a noteworthy feature of the report was the high age profile of carers who were aged 45-75, with an average age of 63.

“This is becoming more common. You see carers in their 60s who perhaps lived overseas and came home to look after a mother who is 90,” said Dr McCarthy.

The social aspect of attending the center and meeting other people with mental health issues was identified as a benefit.

Researchers noted that “a sense of hope” was instilled through swapping stories and experiences.

Original Article Source – http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/health/2013/0102/1224328317070.html

In response to the article above which was researched and published by The Irish Times we strongly agree that any Elderly people suffering acute mental health problems should be at least given the common courtesy of being listened to and being told the truth. The reality is that we should not need a study to be completed to realise this as a basic need for this group of people. Any staff encountered in any day care center should be fully trained in all areas of people skills, including the skill of being able to break down the barriers and stigma attached to mental health issues and to be able to reassure the clients and also make them aware of how important it is to talk and open up to people about any concerns or feelings they may have.

With Ireland having such a high suicide rate among the young we find that a lot of the focus on mental health in Ireland falls on this age group and unfortunately a lot of the information and messages never reach the Elderly group. With mental health issues and suicide rates rising after the fallout from the Celtic Tiger it is vitally important that every age group is targeted and receives as much information as possible, through a greater awareness we can help each other tackle this major problem.

To take the step of trying to talk to someone or discuss their problems is such as massive barrier for the Elderly to get over. We have to remember that in todays age the young are more likely to open up and talk, they have grown up in the age of the world wide web where discussion, social sharing and access to forums and groups is encouraged at every turn, they share details and life stories daily. Compare this to the Elderly age group where talking and discussing problems was not exactly encouraged, in a time when men were physical workers and grafters, or to repeat an old saying “when men were men and sheep were scared”. By no means am I trying to lighten the topic with that last comment but rather to remind people of the impact of that statement “when men were men” has had, it insinuates that todays young are lesser men, that the elderly came from a time when men were harder and more manly. If you grew up in that age then discussing any mental health issues you may have had would have been considered a weakness, a lesser man.

Any staff encountering this age group must realise this and make sure they retain a non-judgmental attitude and maintain a pleasant “homely” atmosphere in the day care centers  As the article states attending these day care centers and meeting and discussing mental health issues has been identified as a benefit which instills a sense of hope, a critical element in the management and recovery from mental health issues.

Taking into account the positive effects of attending social events we fully support the http://firstfortnight.ie/ First Fortnightcampaign of Challenging Mental Health Prejudice through Creative Arts. This is a fantastic event which runs from the 2nd January to the 12th January. Since its inception in 2009, First Fortnight’s key aim has been to challenge mental health stigma and prejudice through the creative arts. They believe the arts allow us to create a space where people can talk about mental health issues in a very non-scripted manner and help to change people’s perceptions about an issue that effects us all.
They are an arts-based mental health organisation, a festival and, from December 2012, a mental health service provider with the exciting launch of the First Fortnight Center for Creative Therapies. A charity-based organisation, First Fortnight is run entirely by seven volunteers.

For a list of events please visit http://firstfortnight.ie/whats-on/calendar/ for full details.

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