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Mental Health

Projects that help people 'out of their cages' threatened by a lack of funding

A report evaluated the work two of Ireland’s long-running community based mental health projects.

shutterstock_361337006 Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images / Monkey Business Images

I wouldn’t have been able to sit in a group here talking a year ago …When you leave [the peer-led project] you feel you can face the world, whereas before you were struggling to leave the house…
… it is not focused on the negative, it’s more focused on the positive aspects of your life and what your capabilities could be. 
… After I [came] here I was more confident or had the ability to really go out and hand out CVs you know, if I didn’t come here I probably wouldn’t have been able to think about doing it, I’d just be caught up in my cage at home.

THESE ARE A taster of the impact of the peer-led projects Áras Folláin and Gateway in Trinity School of Nursing and Midwifery, which was examined in a report launched this morning.

Áras Folláin, located in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, is a ‘befriending project’ where peers provide support to each other in their recovery from mental health difficulties – with support from professionals on an as-needed basis.

Project Gateway in Rathmines, Dublin 6 runs a similar service, with both projects hosted by Mental Health Ireland.

The report, called ‘Development and Impact of Peer-Led Mental Health Support in the Community: A Review of Áras Folláin and Gateway’ looked at the development and impact of both projects – two of Ireland’s long-running community based peer-run projects, to evaluate the work they do.

And the report holds both good and bad news.

Some of the figures to come out of the report include:

  • 53.8% reported a reduction in the symptoms of their mental health difficulties
  • 43.9% reported a reduction in hospital admission and attendance at mental health services
  • 39.7% reported some, or a significant reduction in GP attendance
  • Around 34.9% reported a reduction in medication.

The survey found that attendance increased people’s social skills, made them more aware of how to ask for help, and an increased awareness of their rights and entitlements.

There were also indicators that participants had experienced an overall improvement in their emotional wellbeing, with many reporting a noticeable change in ownership of recovery, hope for the future, sense of purpose, self-confidence, and self-worth, as the above quotes show.

Between 47%-57% of survey participants reported that since they attended the project they had experienced no change in these areas, while less than 10% of participants said there was an increase in these areas.


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But the study also found that there were significant risks to the services as current funding is “insufficient to cover the projects’ costs”.

The report says that this has an effect on the short term and long term future of the projects as their efforts are focused on fundraising instead of support for those suffering from mental health problems, and it makes it much more difficult to plan ahead.

The report recommended that Gateway and Áras Folláin must be provided with secure, long-term financial support to meet the projects’ core costs, and that projects with a similar ethos should be developed.

It also said that the current services should be protected:

All stakeholders connected to the projects need to work continually to maintain and protect the integrity of the peer-led ethos, actively ensuring that the peer-led ethos continues to permeate through all of the projects’ processes, procedures and strategic developments.

Read: ‘My thinking on social issues is really beginning to evolve’: Lynn Ruane on her first full term in the Seanad

Read: ‘There will be people lying in doorways and parks this Christmas’: Homelessness in regional towns

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