West Cork Mental Health Services champion an arts approach to recovery

Posted on: 5th October, 2017

Category: Health & Lifestyle

Contributor: West Cork People

West Cork Mental Health Services (WCMHS) is currently developing community services in the Skibbereen area, including a new space at 49 North Street. The goal of North Street is to provide a creative space to promote recovery and wellness. The majority of community-based projects at the centre are a collaboration between mental health service users and the wider local community. The centre will serve as a hub for a series of free events taking place throughout West Cork during Mental Health Month in October 2017, bringing together musicians such as John Spillane, Míde Houlihan and The Claddagh Rogues, local artists and mental health professionals.

Since 2011, the Mental Health Services in Cork have been paving the way forward for the strategic incorporation of the arts in mental healthcare, for example committing resources to embed a community-based programme throughout West Cork. The programme has been inspired by many and the contemporary recovery-based approach of services is pivotal, with individuals who attend services now having their say in the direction of things to come. Placing the creative arts at the centre, rather than at the margins, of service delivery, the Cork Mental Health Services have contributed to changing healthcare culture, which values the input of professional artists and arts organisations in recovery-focused care.

Dr. Pat Bracken, Consultant Psychiatrist and retired Clinical Director at WCMHS, said: “My experience has taught me that people find their way out of mental health problems along many different pathways. Professionals need to be open, creative and flexible if they are to be a help rather than a hindrance in regard to recovery. This is why the creative arts are so important. They provide individuals with different ways of finding confidence and the strength to move on positively in their struggles. But they also help to change the culture of services themselves. They bring a different way of understanding and responding to problems and help services to work with more imagination and flexibility.”

Declan McCarthy, Assistant Director of Nursing, Cork Mental Health Services, added: “It’s fantastic to be a part of a developing culture of recovery focused care in the current Cork Services – I especially enjoy with my colleagues working with people who attend services. Listening and implementing their ideas and plans in order to enhance our care pathways for people is truly rewarding. Our current Community Mental Health Teams and our Centre for Mental Health Care and Recovery in Bantry and indeed throughout Cork are continuing to build structures and support networks that help serve our communities. 49 North St is a symbol of this and although located in Skibbereen, it will and is open to engaging with all communities throughout West Cork. I would like to thank our Area Director of Nursing Mr Ned Kelly for his support in helping this ethos and service to emerge. I would also like to thank Jean Barron for her invaluable assistance.’

In 2016, WCMHS appointed a Clinical Nurse Specialist, Kevin O’Shanahan, to lead the arts and mental health programme. O’Shanahan is also a musician and a member of The Claddagh Rogues, a folk band born out of Cork’s Simon Community, where O’Shanahan was artist in residence in 2007. Led by James O’Flynn, the music of The Claddagh Rogues explores personal experiences of homelessness, addiction, mental health difficulties and recovery. The unique partnership between O’Shanahan and O’Flynn highlights the important role the arts can play in the recovery journey and The Claddagh Rogues will feature in a number of the West Cork events during Mental Health Month as part of a national performance and discussion tour.

Kevin O’Shanahan, Arts and Mental Health Co-ordinator at WCMHS, said: “West Cork really is unique in the vibrancy of its collaboration between the arts, community and mental health sectors. The events planned for October celebrate the work produced from such collaborations. A growing evidence base points towards strong links between participation in the arts and wellbeing.’

World Mental Health Day falls on October 10 each year, with the aim of promoting awareness and destigmatising mental health issues. WCMHS will partner on a number of free arts and mental health events throughout the month in Skibbereen, Bantry, Schull, Ballydehob, Castletownbere and Clonakilty. Events include all day performances, workshops and discussions during World Mental Health Day; a series of concerts featuring The Claddagh Rogues, John Spillane, Míde Houlihan and the Bantry Commmunity Choir; the launch of the Recovery Stories project by Dr. Pat Bracken on October 23; mindfulness and Gamelan music workshops for healthcare staff, in collaboration with Healthy Ireland; and art exhibitions. Family friendly events will take place at Wolfe Tone square, Bantry on October 13 and 14  incorporating music, movement, food and fun – All events are free of charge. For further details visit musicalive.ie  and www.yourmentalhealth.ie.

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