A €7.6 million EU INTERREG VA funded cross-border project has been launched in response to the increase in numbers of people with mental health problems. Over the next four years, the large-scale, cross border Innovation Recovery project offers an unprecedented opportunity to empower and enable people and communities to take greater control over their own mental and emotional wellbeing.
This EU funding allocation has been secured by the Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) Health and Social Care Partnership. The CAWT project partners are the HSE, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, the Western Health and Social Care Trust, the Public Health Agency and the Health and Social Care Board. The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is also a project partner.
CAWT says the recovery colleges will provide education as a route to recovery, with courses devised and delivered collaboratively by people with their own experience of mental illness along with mental health professionals. “By adopting this educational approach, alongside or as an alternative to more traditional therapeutic options, it is planned that those participating will be enabled to better understand their mental health. Ultimately, people will be supported to recover and to be able to create a satisfying and meaningful life for themselves.”
Jim Daly TD, Minister for Mental Health and Older People at the Department of Health in Ireland and Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health in Northern Ireland jointly announced the launch of this cross border initiative at an event in Dundalk.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Daly said, “This is an important EU funded project which is taking a cross border approach to developing additional support services for those with mental health difficulties and I congratulate the CAWT partnership for securing the EU funding.” He added: “The Innovation Recovery initiative is taking a community-based approach by supporting people to better understand and manage their mental health within their own localities. The recovery ethos is one which the Department wholeheartedly embraces and is reflected in current policy and practice.”
Also speaking at the event, Dr McBride said, “The Department is delighted to be launching this cross border mental health project. The aims and objectives of the project chimes with our priorities for a modern health and social care service, in particular the focus on early intervention and self-management. It is about giving people the tools and support to identify their needs in recovering from and managing their own mental health. It encourages participants to draw upon both their own personal resources and the support of the wider community.”
Project Chair, John Meehan, Assistant National Director at the HSE and Head of National Office for Suicide Prevention said, “The Innovation Recovery project complements and enhances mental health services delivered by the HSE and our community and voluntary partners, by empowering and supporting individuals and their families and the wider community through a learning, educational approach. At the heart of the recovery college approach is that the participants engage with and learn alongside those who have experienced similar mental health issues.”
Damien McCallion, National Director Emergency Management & CAWT Director General of CAWT opened the launch. Other speakers at the launch event included Michael Ryan, Service Improvement Lead, HSE; Briege McClean, Peer Trainer, WHSCT and John McCormack, Scottish Recovery Network.
There will be a total of 3 recovery college locations across Ireland/Northern Ireland, each with a broad catchment area to ensure access by those geographically or socially isolated. Furthermore, using technology, the recovery college services and courses will also be made available online, thus extending the impact of the project more widely.
The three areas which will have new recovery college services are:
- Area 1 West: Derry, Coleraine, Letterkenny, Strabane and West Donegal
- Area 2 South: Cavan, Monaghan, Sligo, Leitrim and Fermanagh
- Area 3 East: Dundalk, Belfast City, Armagh, Newry and Louth
The Innovation Recovery project timeframe is 4.5 years and will complete in 2021.
During the project lifetime, 8,000 people will participate in mental health recovery education programmes. 300 mental health practitioners from statutory, voluntary and community sectors will be trained in recovery orientated methods. Additionally, 500 staff from non-mental health services will be trained in mental health awareness and compassionate care of those suffering from mental health illness.
Match-funding for the project has been provided by both Departments of Health in Ireland and Northern Ireland.