Mental health is a most important, maybe the most important, public health issue, which even the poorest society must afford to promote, to protect and to invest in.” (World Health Organisation, 2003)

Mental health difficulties are very common with one in four people in the world affected by mental/neurological difficulties at some point in their lives. The World Health Organisation estimates 450 million people currently suffer from mental health difficulties making it one of the leading causes of ill-health worldwide and that number is increasing year on year (WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020). However, nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help due to fear of stigma and discrimination. (WHO, 2012)

Evidence shows that accessibility to mental health care of people with longer-term mental disorders is much better with community-based services than with the traditional psychiatric hospitals (Thornicroft & Tansella, 2003) and community-based services are associated with greater user satisfaction and increased met needs. 

National mental health policy in Ireland sets out a framework for building and fostering positive mental health across the entire community and for providing accessible, community-based, specialist services for people with mental health difficulties (A Vision for Change, Department of Health, 2006). Stigma and awareness raising is perhaps the greatest challenge facing Irish society. Over 50% of people reportedly live with the symptoms of mental ill-health for long periods without accessing mental health advice or treatment. This is due mainly to the stigma that surrounds mental health as well as lack of knowledge about mental health problems and sources of help (St Patrick’s University Hospital, 2011).

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