I am pleased to introduce myself as the new Clinical Director with Aware and launch this monthly blog series. This blog will be a place where I explore and summarise the latest in mental health developments and research. My intention is to apply these ideas and research to the day-to-day experience of life with mental health difficulties.
I have been working in mental health services since 2007, both in the UK and more recently in general hospital in Ireland. My areas of specialisms include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness and Compassion based approaches as well as service delivery and innovation. My ambition is to continue building on the inspirational work all those at Aware do, and I hope to further the agenda of a biopsychosocially informed understanding of mental health.
Put simply, a biopsychosocial understanding of mental health suggests that biological (e.g. genetics, medication), psychological (e.g. coping, beliefs, attachment etc) and social (e.g. family, society) factors intersect with each other to contribute to the experience of psychological distress. The World Health Organisation (WHO) appear to affirm this understanding, and underscore the importance of social context. They argue that ‘mental health and mental disorder is shaped to a great extent by the social, economic, and physical environments in which people live’.
Here in Ireland we face numerous societal challenges including a crisis in housing and cost of living. We have one of the highest rates of mental illness in Europe alongside one of the lowest funded mental health services. The WHO recommends a 12% spend of the health budget for mental health, and Ireland currently spends about 6%. This limited funding contributes to less help and long waiting lists for people needing support with their mental health.
I believe there is a significant level of unmet need in mental health service provision in Ireland. In Aware we seek to meet needs around support and information to those experiencing depression, bipolar and anxiety. Whether someone is experiencing changes in mood for the first time, or indeed living with many years of recurring depression or anxiety. Whether they are supported by mental health services, or not. Everyone is welcome. The hope is that connection can help lessen the isolating nature of mental health difficulties, and information and education can enable better understandings in order that people can live satisfying, meaningful and connected lives.
To continue to do this work well and uphold the high standards that Aware is known for, my intention as Clinical Director and the focus of this blog is to commit to bringing the most up to date thinking and evidence to further our understanding of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder and what has been proven to be effective in supporting people to cope with them, taking into account as I say, wider social and psychological influences that people are contending with. I look forward to writing more on these themes in the year ahead and welcome any feedback and/or suggested areas of focus from readers.
This blog is by Dr Susan Brannick, Clinical Director at Aware as part of a monthly blog series.