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Shining a light on mental health

Shining a light on mental health during Coronavirus crisis

IN response to COVID-19, Shine has put measures in place to ensure continued vital support is available to people experiencing mental health difficulties and their family members.

A national organisation, Shine is dedicated to upholding the rights and addressing the needs of all those affected by mental ill health, through the promotion and provision of high-quality services and working to ensure the continual enhancement of the quality of life of the people it serves.

Ann Marie Flanagan, Shine’s Mid-West regional development officer, said, “As our name suggests, we shine a light for people who are in crisis and we know our work is more important than ever at this time. Our service is available to anyone who has mental health difficulties, as well as their families. For the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, in order to comply with Government guidelines about distancing and travel, we have moved our group and individual supports and education to phone, email and social media.

A long-time advocate for people with disabilities, Ann Marie tried to raise the profile of this sector when she stood as a candidate in recent Senate elections, following a nomination from Independent Living Movement Ireland. Though unsuccessful, she said it was a learning curve and took solace from the fact that in attracting 22 votes, it was a better performance than several others contesting the Administrative Panel, where Martin Conway retained his seat.

“I am confined to home near Ennistymon, but I have been dealing with 10 cases or more every day by phone, email on social media. Other permanent paid staff, who as facilitators would normally be engaged in face to face contact with clients, are now involved as volunteers. This is a sign of their commitment to helping people affected by mental health,” she said.

Ann Marie said with the pressures brought to bear on everyday living as a result of the Coronavirus, it is critical that Shine is still available to anyone who is experiencing mental health difficulties and their families.

“We offer a range of supports and services including mental health recovery planning, individual, family support designed for you.

We discuss together your needs and concerns and provide options such as information, counselling, education to help you, if you are a person with mental health issues and family supporters.

We offer recovery planning and support that can help you identify issues and challenges affecting your personal goals. We help people realise there can be an end to their problems and that they should look forward with eyes of hope; look to the future.

This support is person centred, free, confidential, solution and recovery focused and individually tailored, guided by your needs,” she said.

Marie engages and collaborates with the mental health services, other statutory bodies such as local authorities and Social Welfare and agencies to improve the quality of experience and remove any barrier to service-users.

She said, “Even from a distance, Shine can provide information and support in relation to the local services and resources and explain how they work. We provide support with your emotional, information and recovery educational needs, communicating effectively, dealing with concerns and needs to assist in maximising a desired outcome and achieve goals and aspirations, unique to each individual and family.

“The individual seeking support is the most important person. While I offer a set of skills and expertise, the person is an expert on themselves. The person can be offered recovery interventions and tools, but they must implement them for themselves. It can be hard work, however being willing to try for themselves will benefit with positive results. My role can include supporting the person’s developing their self-confidence so they can achieve their chosen life.”
Ann Marie said people engaging with Shine must understand that “recovery isn’t linear”; there can be ups and downs and it means different things to different people.

“Recovery can mean never feeling anxious, sad or self-conscious; more good days than bad ones; the ability to work full time, take up a career or start a relationship; being symptom and medication free,” she emphasised.
Marie said society must realise that people affected by illness have a desire to be happier, productive and have a right to be treated equally.

“There can be challenges to personal recovery. These are very personal and are important to identify, to have clarity around the specific issues that can create stumbling blocks. By knowing what these are and have solutions the person can be motivation when times are difficult to work through them. Having a recovery toolbox can be key during difficult times. It can seem difficult to feel in control and independent at times. It can be challenging to move on from hard times. Acceptance of the difficulties times and coming to terms with them is a very important initial step. With support from Shine discussing these challenges in a confidential, non-judgemental, person centred environment enables the person to explore and find solutions,” she said.

Ann Marie explained there are internal factors to do with the self and external factors that often involve others for which there can be less control over.

“I can support individuals to build on positive self-esteem, self-image and self-belief: Self-esteem: I cannot change the past, or control the future, but I work on be in the present moment; Self-image: I am equal to everyone else, no better and no worse; Self-belief: I can be the best version of myself and I deserve to be and maximise the external factors of: Family: Positive relationships with healthy boundaries; Friends: A shared experience, receiving and giving.”

She stressed how we all need support.

“A person may want to assess who they want and need from family, friends, formal support from Shine, a GP, counsellor, mental health professional or HR department. Information is very important. Avoid opinions and too much social media on subjects that can cause worry and fake news, seek clarification,” Ann Marie concluded.

Call Mid-West Shine: 087 7878222, email:@shine.ie, www.shine.ie

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