At the end of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, the Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society says it would like to comment briefly on how it sees the situation at the moment. At a public meeting held on the 3rd April, a number of issues were raised by relatives of service users, and others.
A statement continued:
“Regarding the new facility at Ocean Views, although it was generally recognised that the new facility caters more effectively for service users, in that there is more space and dedicated wards, it was felt that it was lacking in other ways. The main problem seems to be lack of organised activities, particularly in the afternoons. Although there are a number of sessions in the ARC department, in the mornings, this doesn't seem to be nearly enough. Service users have made it known to the Society that they would also like access to talking therapies while in OV.
“The subject of care in the community was discussed. This is an issue of great concern to both service users and their families, often brought to the notice of the GMWS.
“It was felt by those present that there wasn't much available. Other than going to Coaling Island to receive treatment, and have medical appointments, service users- who often live alone- are largely left to their own devices. It was acknowledged that perhaps there were ad hoc arrangements, here and there, for specific clients, that we would not be aware of, but that there was no clear outreach structures in place.
“Problems for people with mental health issues, who are unable to work for this reason, were compounded by the fact of having a very low income. Having said this, the Society is pleased that, as a result of their campaigning for improved benefits, a number of service users are now receiving the disability benefit which is a considerably larger sum than what many were getting before.
“Still, it is felt by the Society that the Disability Benefits' application is not suitable in its entirety for applicants with mental health problems. The form includes questions which are irrelevant to these claimants and, as a result of this, the wrong criteria may be used and the benefits sometimes denied to the applicant.
“It was also mentioned that there are no mental health social workers in Gibraltar. These would be very beneficial to service users in the community and also to their families. It was felt very strongly that the relatives of service users, who are collateral damage in the circumstances, need support. The GMWS said that there should be a Carer's Charter in place.
“The Mental Capacity Act is still not in place either and it was felt that this would go some way to helping relatives of service users ensure that the latter were getting the best support they could get at any given time.
“The GMWS emphasised the need to invest in mental health support for young people. It was essential to do this in order to reduce the very negative effects that such problems have on the lives of so many. With the intention of focussing on the problems which young people face in this sphere, the GMWS funded an initiative which encouraged students to explore a wide range of related issues and which resulted in the publication of the book Garden of Thoughts. Participants from the Gibraltar College produced a series of poems, drawing and writings which voiced the experiences and concerns of this generation in regards to mental health.
“As reiterated in a recent Viewpoint programme, the GMWS calls on Government to implement the structured counselling system in schools, which it committed to doing in its 2011 manifesto.
“The GMWS will continue to work towards achieving its objectives on all fronts.”