Research carried out at University of Limerick, and published in this month’s in this month’s Journal of Mental Health, has provided the first evidence that community-based mental health services have a positive impact on local attitudes to mental health.
The research, entitled The Impact of Community-based Mental Health Service Provision on Stigma and Attitudes Towards Professional Help-seeking was conducted in collaboration with Pieta House mental health services, which practices community-based mental healthcare and supports movement away from traditional, hospital-based treatment models and towards integrated, community-based services that can be accessed on an outpatient basis.
It was noted that mental health-related stigma was significantly lower and attitudes towards seeking professional help were more positive following the introduction of Pieta House’s community-based mental health services.
Lead author of the study, Dr Michelle Kearns, stated: “This work is amongst the first to offer evidence in support of the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that community-based services are more effective and lessen social exclusion of those affected by mental ill-health.
“A community-based approach can be viewed as a welcome addition to hospital-based alternatives. Not only do such services have the benefits of accessibility and allow for treatment in a familiar environment, they also appear to impact the stigma of help-seeking and mental health issues”.
“This new model of healthcare was speculated to lessen the stigma around mental ill-health and help-seeking, as it provides distance from the stereotyped, historical, “insane asylum” rhetoric”.“Until now, however, there was little or no evidence available to support such claims”, Dr Kearns concluded.
This study, funded by an Irish Research Council Enterprise Partnership award, was formed as part of an ongoing collaboration between the UL Centre for Social Issues Research and Pieta House for Dr Kearns’ PhD research, which was supervised by Professor Orla Muldoon and Professor Rachel Msetfi, with Dr Paul Surgenor representing Pieta House as the enterprise mentor.
“The visibility of mental health services within a given area may result in community members viewing help-seeking behaviour as something that is not unusual or something to be ashamed of, but rather part of the everyday fabric of maintaining health and well-being, in the same way as visiting a doctor or a dentist,” Dr Kearns suggests.
Brian Higgins, CEO of Pieta House, said: “Our vision at Pieta House is a world where suicide, self-harm, and stigma have been replaced by hope, self-care, and acceptance. Stigma is frequently what brings people to the doors of Pieta House, often adding to stresses on youth and adult mental health”.