On 10th October, World Mental Health Day, MLAs from across the political spectrum joined the New Script for Mental Health in Stormont for a briefing on their community consultation.
The event, which was co-sponsored by Mark H. Durkan SDLP and Órlaithí Flynn Sinn Féin, was also attended by Paul Givan DUP, Paula Bradshaw Alliance Party and Robbie Butler UUP. Representatives of key individuals and organisations from the fields of health, education, sports, community and voluntary sector and research also participated.
The New Script consultation invited people to share their New Scripts for Mental Health. More than 120 individuals actively participated in face to face and online workshops during the consultation process. The diverse group included individuals with lived experience, service users, family members, staff in mental health services and asylum seekers, all sharing their vision for a transformative approach to mental health.
Image caption: Prof. Phil Scraton address the Choice, Connection and Community event
The enduring crisis in the mental health system and the urgent need for a new trauma-informed, rights-based approach provided the impetus for the New Script consultation. The devastating consequences of failures within the existing system was described by a bereaved mother. Mary Gould, a New Script activist, spoke of the tragic loss of her son Conall in 2017, at the age of 21 years, while under the care of mental health services.
Mary outlined a devastating catalogue of failures from mental health services, including their failure to follow the mental health care pathway, hospital policies or NICE guidelines, the lack of risk assessment, lack of a care plan, no discharge planning meeting and no follow up. She expressed her concern for other families failed by the system and asked the question as to how many other Conalls there might be, other potential victims of a legacy of poor standards in mental health care.
The consultation report, entitled ‘Choice, Connection and Community’ summarised the key themes that emerged from the consultation. These included reform of mental health services, providing individuals with a broader spectrum of options, promoting both individual and collective empowerment, and addressing underlying causes of emotional pain and distress.
Describing the event as ‘the most impactful he’d ever been at (in Stormont)’, Mark H Durkan MLA stated ‘it’s vitally important that we as elected representatives listen to the voices of lived experience and we act on what we are hearing’.
Órlaithí Flynn MLA reflecting on a ‘beautiful, thoughtful event’, underlined that ‘we are talking about real lives and really sad and tragic stories, where unfortunately this care is happening to late for people who have already lost their lives’.
Paul Givan MLA thanked the activists for creating greater levels of awareness and stimulating conversation, and noted that the New Script ‘has many different types of things that could be helpful to people’.
New Script activists look forward to continuing this important conversation with politicians and others in the coming weeks and months.