The Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society says that as we approach a General Election, it considers what progress has been made in mental health provision in the last few years. Starting with the opening of the new psychiatric facility at Ocean Views in 2015, GWMS feel that the mental health services in Gibraltar have seen significant improvements in recent years.
"Among other things, we have had an increase in the child psychologists available, and also in counsellors in the GHA. After a very difficult period a couple of years ago, when there was an acute shortage of psychiatrists, there is now a complement of 4.5 of these professionals- a higher number than in the past though not necessarily the highest we can aspire to have. People still complain about having appointments cancelled and having to wait too long; they also complain about lack of continuity of care.
"In 2018 we welcomed the recruitment of a psychologist that would be based in OV, an absolutely crucial post which should always have existed in such a facility. In time with the opening of the new schools, the Government has appointed four counsellors who will provide a much needed service across the board. We await to see how effectively this provision works.
"We have been campaigning for a few years now for improved procedures in crisis intervention. We are very pleased that it is no longer obligatory to go through A&E in such a situation. The most appropriate help can now be accessed on the advice of a recently appointed team of mental health professionals.
"In spite of these and other additions to mental health provision, it still happens that service users can find it difficult to navigate the system and get the help they want, even though that help might actually be available. We feel that there is a lack of communication and coordination between relevant departments resulting at times in less efficiency in the service than there should be. It is essential for there to be an integrated approach between different branches of the service, particularly when dealing with service users who have both physical and mental health problems. In the near future the Society hopes to discuss with the relevant professionals what further improvements can be made in the sphere of person centred planning.
"Another crucial component for further progress in mental health provision is the establishment of a database on mental health. This is a crucial component to delivering a more efficient service and is a matter which the Society has brought to the table in discussions with the Minister. We have been assured that this data base has already been started. This is the only way which will enable a proper assessment of the services provided and an evaluation of whether the needs of the service user are in fact being met. Without this we depend on anecdotal information which does not provide an objective, overall view of the service.
"In February of this year an audit was carried out by the Mental Team of Public Health England. At the time, those of us who had participated in some way were invited to a preliminary feedback session which was informative, even at this stage. However, since then, the report has been delivered to the GHA but it has not been made available to many of the bodies which fed into the audit. It is possible that the report might be made public at a later date but one needs to wonder at this delay. If audits are conducted it makes perfect sense for the reports to be shared because they certainly are in the public interest.
"We recognise that there is undoubtedly an increased awareness of mental health issues among the general public. It is crucial to keep this momentum up, aiming to do away with the stigma attached to mental illness; this in turn should lead to a more visible contribution of service users as to what their requirements are. It is clear that to provide people with the best possible chances of thriving, in spite of mental health problems, that support regarding housing and employment also needs to be available, as well as realistic benefits when employment is not possible.
"The GMWS has held regular meetings with Minister Costa and has found him open to their suggestions and proactive in his responses. It hopes that his successor will be equally committed to further improvements in mental health provision and that we will continue to see the necessary investment which will put mental health on a par with physical health."