Fine Gael Limerick TD and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville, has said that mental health carers need to be consulted when professionals are drawing up treatment plans for their patients. Deputy Neville was speaking today (Friday) at the opening of the Mental Health and Suicide Awareness Conference organised by Waterford County Council in Dungarvan.
“There is an urgent need for a change in the mind-set of the majority of mental health professionals in this country to recognise the value of involving family members and carers in the treatment of mentally ill patients. While there are some very progressive members of the psychiatric profession, many others refuse to involve family in the treatment process, particularly when a patient is being discharged.
“Too often family members who have a unique insight into the mental condition of the patient, and may be acutely aware of suicidal feelings are excluded. I have learnt of many cases where family members were unable to discuss this with the professional involved, with the end result of the tragic death of the patient.
“By not taking the family’s experience and concern on board, the professional is missing out on vital information that should be taken into account when deciding on a care plan. Advice for carers on the aftercare of discharged patients is also vital for a successful and full recovery.
“I understand the need for confidentiality. At times the information needs of carers and family may conflict with the patient’s wish for privacy. In these cases, a way forward should be agreed to ensure the interests of all parties are met. Where possible, a more cooperative approach should be taken to ensure carers are given advice on what to do if the patient is not well enough to make decisions, and information should be exchanged more freely, with due regard to the sensitivities and confidential rights of the patient.
“Carers provide an enormous amount of care and support in the home for people with mental health problems. This needs to be valued and recognised. They should be informed when a patient is going to be discharged, and involved in the care planning process. This approach is vital if we are to comprehensively overhaul the way we tackle mental health issues in this country.”