This October, we had the privilege of attending the 5th International Conference on Youth Mental Health in Brisbane, Australia. This is a conference where leading academics, health professionals, service providers, researchers, policy makers and, most importantly, young people gathered together to discuss services and research into youth mental health worldwide. Many people, from multiple countries, expressed their opinions and discussed findings from studies they had carried out. Many topics were spoken about including different and innovative ways to get people talking about their mental wellbeing, youth involvement in decision making, how best to approach minority communities and tackling the stigma around mental illness, the importance of using social media to spread awareness about mental illness and to provide free and easily accessible counselling and support services to young people around the world.
We’re proud to report that there was a strong Irish representation at the conference and many of those presenting had travelled from Ireland. For example there were representatives from Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, and researchers from several Irish universities. A highlight of the conference was the presentation of results from the MyWorld study, published by UCD School of Psychology and Jigsaw. While we were there we got a chance to interview Jim Daly, the Minister of State for Mental Health and Barbara Dooley, the Vice-president of IAYMH and Dean of Graduate Studies and Deputy Registrar in UCD. Here’s what they said:
Minister Jim Daly Interview
What is your role in youth mental health?
Jim Daly is my name, I am the Minister with the responsibility for mental health in Ireland. My primary role is to oversee the guidance of policy and the development of policy in the area of mental health and of course to fund it as well.
What do you think is the future of mental health?
I think the future of mental health is, I’ve always made this point, that anywhere there are challenges there are opportunities and there are many challenges in mental health but there are also many, many opportunities in mental health. Thankfully, I think people are talking about it more, the stigma is reducing. So I do think that there is a very bright future for mental health the more we all take ownership of it, but I do believe that it is a shared responsibility across all of society.
What is your hope for mental health, in Ireland specifically?
I think there are two or three things I would look at in mental health in Ireland: I’m glad we have moved away from the Ireland that we were and how we treated mental health. Back in the 60s there was about 20,000 inpatient beds in Ireland – to our shame, and too many people were locked away from society and mental health was seen as taboo. So we’ve moved an awful long way, we have further to go, we are refreshing the ‘Vision For Change’ at the moment, so I think that is a very exciting opportunity for us, as a country: to re-look at how we do what we do, and we must continue on that journey. I think reaching out to other countries, and learning from other countries and understanding their experiences is important, because the problems are the same across the world and the solutions are the very same as well. So I think a shared knowledge and a shared ownership of the challenge is a really powerful way of dealing with mental health into the future.
How do you think people can reduce or, if possible, completely end the stigma around mental health in our everyday lives?
I don’t think we can do it in any one fell sweep. I don’t think we can do it in any defined period of time. I think it’s a journey. We’re going to have to stay on that journey and continue on it and realise as part of that journey how far we have come, and recognise and celebrate that, but continue on that journey to ensuring people keep talking about mental illness and that is how we’ll eradicate and eliminate the stigma.
Continue reading about the conference and youth mental health with our interview with Professor Barbara Dooley, the Vice-president of IAYMH and Dean of Graduate Studies and Deputy Registrar in UCD