Grow Ireland CEO, Michele Kerrigan

Self-help support groups underused in care of people with mental health issues – Grow Ireland
Pictured: Grow Ireland CEO, Michele Kerrigan

Health care professionals must make better use of community-based self-help groups for patients with mental health issues, according to the mental health organisation Grow.

Figures from Grow indicate that only 37pc of people attending its services have been referred by GPs, psychiatrist and other mental health professionals.

According to Grow Ireland CEO, Michele Kerrigan, poor integration between professional services and community support group networks means many patients are being denied a very effective resource.

“The mental health services are under continued pressure,” she said. “In January of this year, one in four people were waiting more than three months to be seen by a community mental health team. By July that had increased to almost one in three.

“Numerous studies have shown that the self-care and peer support services provided by voluntary organisations like Grow have significant benefits in terms of reducing hospitalisations, improving patient outcomes and reducing costs. Yet only a very small proportion of the people who come to us for help are actually referred by health care professionals,” she said.

The Grow model of care is based on a combination of cognitive training and peer support similar to that provided by Alcoholics Anonymous and incorporates an adapted 12-step programme.

There are more than 130 Grow groups operating throughout the country, holding weekly group meetings designed to give support and advice to people who are currently suffering from mental health issues or have suffered mental health problems in the past.

To mark Mental Health Day, Grow has launched a series of videos where members share their experiences of mental illness and recovery.