Mental Health and Wellness in the North West: A Shared Vision and Collaborative Mission
The final Summer Series event took place at ATU’s Letterkenny campus with the Head of Department of Nursing and Health Care, ATU Donegal, Dr Louise McBride acting as MC for the evening.
The President of ATU Dr Orla Flynn opened the mental health and wellness event and acknowledged students, colleagues and wider stakeholder participation. Dr Flynn highlighted the importance of research and ATU’s strengths in this area.
NMBI Director of Registration, Dr Ray Healy, presented the NMBI psychiatric nursing division demographics to the crowd. He drew attention to the numbers of patient-facing registrants and the age categories of these. Gender disparities are smaller with this division in comparison to others, but males remain the minority.
Jonathan Durning, Lecturer in Mental Health, ATU Donegal, presented some details of his mental health and music PhD. The challenges of an ageing population include isolation and loneliness. The study focuses on choir participation and the sustained engagement involved over many years.
Sharon Ferguson, Mental Health & Wellbeing Project Officer, ATU Donegal, presented the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework. A survey was conducted in 2019. This has resulted in the Wellness Café models with service user involvement and co-production. The working group consists of students and staff as equal stakeholders. Local mental health services are invited and include peer facilitators. Education around the cafés includes Safe Talk Assist training with programmes running throughout the academic year.
Margaret McLafferty, Research Fellow in Mental Health at Ulster Care, ATU Donegal and Natasha Brown, Research Assistant at ATU Donegal presented the Student Psychosocial Intervention Trial (SPIT). A cross border project between ATU and UU (Ulster University). The project consisted of two phases. Phase 1 consisted of statistics of students gathered on a year-to-year basis including saliva samples. The results flagged the high risk of suicidal behaviour in people with ADHD. Of the numbers screened just 5.4% of these students were receiving treatment. Phase 2 – Intervention, consisted of seven weekly sessions of intervention with personalised feedback. Validated measures were used to assess the functions of intervention. This project has resulted in a grant award which will fund the Irish Student Wellbeing and ADHD Project, which is designed and implemented to support students.
Dr Grainne Ketelaar, Lecturer, Department of Nursing and Health Care, ATU Donegal discussed the iMark Initiative: Supporting Independence from Alcohol Industry Influence. Dr Ketlelaar discussed local statistics and how Donegal had high above average statistics for all alcohol related findings, including illnesses, deaths, licences etc. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is a rising issue with the effects impacting all healthcare services. Legislation enactment to overcome these issues coincide with other acts that have conflicting agendas depending on the lobbying influence, she said.
Michelle Murray RPN, Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Donegal Mental Health Services, presented assessment and management of self-harm in the emergency department at Letterkenny University Hospital. She discussed the integrated role and the positive effects of a rapid and timely response had in reducing repeated rates. Assessment training for all staff in the department is provided by the self-harm nurse. The future initiative is for an ANP role in this area. This would include health promotion, improved education, recovery groups, research and evaluations.
Keane Ryan RPN, Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) DMHS presented the Exercise Physiology Clinic. This referral service focuses on exercise as intervention to support dual diagnosis service users. This is a person led treatment and is an award-winning pilot project. It has had a positive outcome with increased numbers of referrals on a weekly basis.
The keynote address on the evening was delivered by John Meehan, Assistant National Director and Head of the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) who acknowledged all panel members and commented on each presentation. Mr Meehan presented an overview of the mental health strategies from 2005-2022 and focused on Connecting for Life and Sharing the Vision. The office has implemented data sharing with An Garda Siochana and the HSE to identify suicide related incidents for further investigation. Data is key, he said. Research spending is now divided to cover multiple projects with annual calls for research. There is a population-based approach with the focus on mental health and wellbeing. National courses should be incorporated into curriculums for all programmes. Nurses need to get out there and show their skills in the field. This is evident with provision of new mental health nursing posts including ANP roles.
There were a number of issues raised by the audience including the issue of anxiety among children. Mr Meehan advised that there is a gap in services. There are challenges to find age-appropriate models, particularly for primary school children, he said. He acknowledged the work of former Education Minister Joe McHugh in introducing Wellness into the secondary school curriculum.
A number of speakers emphasised that mental health services are continuing to evolve with the involvement of the profession. Mental health is everyone and for all, from the chronic to the lesser affected, was a common theme. Concern was expressed that mental health nurses should also take care of themselves and should be encouraged to attend wellness programmes.
NMBI President, Essene Cassidy brought the event, and the Summer Series, to a close by thanking all partners for co-hosting. She complimented each of the speakers for their input into the evening’s discussion in Letterkenny and thanked Dr McBride, who is also Vice-President of NMBI, for her role and support.