A celebration of Wexford Mental Health Association(WMHA) initiatives was held in the Arts Centre Wexford on Wednesday January 25th. A packed audience learned of the many and varied initiatives been undertaken by WMHA.
Fr. Colm Murphy Chairperson of WMHA extended a warm welcome to all present including members of the Dail including Paul Kehoe T.D. and James Browne T.D., Mayor of Wexford – Frank Staples, Jim Leacy Wexford and Waterford Mental Health services manager. Jill O’Herlihy MHI, Alan Doolan of Two Heads design company and Dr. Vincent Moloney psychiatrist.
Fr. Murphy outlined the aims of the association and spoke of the change of direction in recent years to meet the changing needs of society. WMHA is a voluntary non-profit making organisation/company founded to bridge the gap between mental health professionals and the community. The aims of the association are:
- To help the mentally ill.
- To promote positive mental health and wellbeing.
39 years ago most mentally ill people were cared for in institutions/hospitals like St.Senan’s. WMHA in cooperation with hospital management pioneered care in the community, hostel accommodation, for discharged service users. Some were low support others were high support hostels. At one time WMHA managed some 22 such homes in County Wexford, affording the residents a much better quality of life and freedom to integrate within the communities in which they were living. As care in the community is now mainstream HSE policy, “Vision for Change”, WMHA is no longer involved in this work.
The second aim of the association, “To promote positive mental health and wellbeing” was promoted by the Association facilitating discussion from a mental health perspective on various topics using play-lets titled, The Lonely Wife, The Unmarried Father, Death in The Family. Needless to say the play let topics were portrayed in a deliberate exaggerated fashion so as to provoke discussion. These were presented to ICA groups, Macra groups and other community groups also.
Some 35 years ago also a public speaking project was started for Secondary school pupils to engage in discussions on various topics from a mental health perspective. During all of these years WMHA worked in cooperation with the HSE, Wexford County Council and Town councils, local T.D.’s MHI, the GAA, business sponsors and others. Fr. Murphy thanked volunteers, who take up the annual church gate collection, Sing Carols on the Main St. at Christmas, and to the many other groups and people who organise fund raising activities such as Golf Classics, Mini Marathons etc., WMHA are very grateful to you all.
As we all know things have changed in the care of the mentally ill, St. Senan’s is up for sale, a sure sign that things are very different.
WMHA has changed its focus with the changing times, but WMHA are still true to its aims, 1) To care for the mentally ill and 2) To promote positive mental health and wellbeing.
Many new initiatives have been undertake, WMHA is still in pioneering mode in the care of the mentally ill. So as to provide care in a non-clinical setting, on the street as it were, and help lessen the stigma, about 3 years back WMHA purchased an office premises in Henrietta Street. It is now used by many groups, Peer Support, Carers Association, and The National Office of Suicide Prevention. CAMHS ….Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services group, Advanced Recovery Ireland, which is a national initiative aimed at developing more recovery focused mental health services, creating Partnerships with Services Users, Family members and HSE Professionals. Courses have also been provided there, Healthy Ageing..3/10 week courses, Mind your Mental Health Days and WRAP courses have also taken place in Henrietta Street. It is also the office for the VSO… Voluntary Support Officer, who helps service users find employment. Originally funding was sourced from Genio, the World Mental Health Charity but this goo work is now funded by the HSE. Our administration support staff also work from Henrietta Street. It is hoped to develop a similar facility in Castle Street, Enniscorthy.
Four other initiatives being organised by WMHA are SLSG, WRAP, VSO and Sports Programme.
The four projects were represented during the questions and answer session.
- Social Learning Support Group – this is an evening peer group aimed at individuals who have progressed as part of their recovery journeys to employment/education/volunteer roles. The group provides psychoeducation, support and opportunities for socialisation.
- WRAP – Wellness Recovery Action Plan – The WMAH has rolled out level 1 Workshop across the county allowing more than 100 individuals from diverse backgrounds including mental health service users, family members, carers, mental health staff from all divisions and community members including teachers and community workers. In 2017 we are in the process of facilitator level 2 training to ensure the sustainability of the delivery of WRAP to the community of Wexford.
- VSO – Vocational Support Officer aims to support individuals in their recovery journey through individualised pathways to meaningful work. This is run in partnership between HSE, Wexford Mental Health Association, GENIO (2014/15) and Employability.
- Sports Programme –The Wexford Mental Health Services Sport Programme originated in 2007 and now comprises of weekly physical activity interventions ongoing throughout the year, including circuit training, aerobic and soccer and basketball group, periodic interventions such FAI coaching, Tag Rugby, outdoor adventure days and group holidays and a psychoeducational programme that vary in approach and project partners and co-produced interventions as well as participation in wider community and educational forums. Our key partners include Ollie Gogherty, St. Joseph’s Community Hall, Sports, Sports Active Wexford, and HSE amongst many other community partners.
These projects were explained through a question and answer format chaired by Mairead Connaughton.
Alan Doolan of Two Heads Design Company an employer associated with the VSO programme spoke of the value of work in the lives of those who are working through mental health issues. He stated a sense of purpose and self-esteem is enhanced by the opportunity of work. He welcomed the opportunity to be able to employ staff through the VSO programme and Employability.
Jill O’Herlihy MHI congratulated WMHA on its role in pioneering mental health when it was not popular to do so over 40 years ago and was heartened by the proactive attitude of the association. She invited all people to take part in the Mind Your Mental Health Workshops been organised by MHI in Wexford. Next workshop will take place on January 31st in Henrietta Street Wexford. She noted that the organisation is completely transparent in its aims, objectives and activities.
Expressions Secondary School Competition has been running for two years and replaced the public speaking competition to allow students with a variety of creative interests to participate. The competition focuses on the theme of “Positive Mental Health is …….” And application were open to all secondary schools in the county. The idea is that students express their opinions and views on what they think positive mental health is, by creative writing, artwork, drama and poetry. The winner of this year’s competition Colaiste Abainn presented their impressive creative and innovative entry. The cast of Anthony Finn, Lisa Hammerl, Megan Butler and Laura Dunne presented an extract form their winning presentation.
Brenda Whelan a student for Adamstown College spoke of the impact that the WMHA drama A Face in The Crowd had on her and her colleagues. The powerful drama presentation allowed pupils discuss issues raised in a supported workshop. The Discover/Recovery Theatre project is a unique collaboration of local individual with lived experience of mental health difficulties and community services who have come together to create a forum of recovery stories to be discovered and shared through the medium of storytelling workshops, live theatre and digital media. This project has recently got national recognition, receiving the Ann Beckett Award for Excellence and Innovation in Occupational Therapy Practice. The Wexford Mental Health Association, were delighted to have been the main supporter of this innovative project.
Megan Dempsey student in Presentation Wexford clearly stated that this generation must break down the stigma surrounding mental health. Young people must talk and seek help without judgement. Look at the positive in every day.
Jim Leacy HSE thanked WMHA for pioneering work in the care of the mentally ill outside the hospital setting and congratulated them on providing new services to meet the changing needs of society. He was delighted to be associated with the development of the new WMHA “recovery club” which is under development in Enniscorthy and will help provide services needed to promote mental health and help with recovery. He said a lot of the good work done by voluntary members and agencies like WMHA and by HSE staff often goes unnoticed as the bad news grabs headlines.
Dr. Vincent Maloney spoke of his association with WMHA over the years. He has provided workshops on Healthy aging and will provide a workshop for parents of school children dealing with issues of mental health on March 25th– Contact WMHA Henrietta Street for details. He finished the evening leaving all with some quotations on which to contemplate.
“May your spirit soar every day like an eagle on the wing”
“May your memory be as clear as the water in spring”
“May you want the things you get rather than get the things you want”
Wexford MHA will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2018.