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Please note that this job is NOT approved as a College recognised training post at this time

Senior House Officer – Psychiatry (July 2019 to Jan 2020) HSE West Job Posted: 15/05/2019
Closing Date: 12 noon on Friday 31st May, 2019

Competition Ref: T/02/19
Contract Type: Specified Purpose – 6 months duration initially
Full time
Staff Category: Medical
Internal/External: External

Mayo Mental Health Services, Community Healthcare West:

  • 1 post in Castlebar
  • 1 post in Ballina
  • 1 post in Westport/Ballinrobe
  • 1 post in North Mayo
Informal Inquiries:

Dr. Ursula Skerritt
Tel: 094 90 42609
Email. ursula.skerritt2@hse.ie

Application details:

Send CV by post or email to:
Recruitment Manager,
Human Resources Department,
Community Healthcare West,
St. Mary’s Headquarters,
Castlebar,
Co. Mayo.
Email: mcs.hrdept@hse.ie

Proposed interview dates TBC
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RCSI has today launched a digital animation series focused on issues related to the mental health of young people in Ireland.

The five-part series – funded by the HRB – features the voices and stories of young people who have experienced anxiety, bullying, not fitting in, depression and loneliness. It was designed in collaboration with the IADT, SpunOut.ie and the HSE.

Depression - RCSI #YMHanimate Project - YouTube

Digital animation series

The animations’ scripts directly draw from the real responses of young people in Ireland who participated in the RCSI research study. Each video animation presented consists of a composite of experiences from different young people in the study. By using the voices and real-life experiences of young people and the issues affecting their mental health, they present a story that is of, by and for young people.

The animations are available to view in both English and Irish through SpunOut.ie, as a resource for young people who may be struggling with any of the issues addressed.

The project was funded through a Knowledge Exchange and Dissemination Award from the HRB. These awards encourage researchers to use creative and innovative approaches to share the results or findings of HRB funded projects in a meaningful way with the people for who the findings matter most.

Mental health in young people

RCSI’s 2013 ‘The Mental Health of Young People in Ireland’ research study found that an estimated one in two young people will have experienced significant issues affecting their mental health by the age of 25 years, with one in three by the age of just 13.

Ireland’s teenage suicide rate is the fourth highest among high-income countries, and one in five Irish children aged 11-15 years say they experience two or more psychological symptoms.*

Working to prevent and respond to early signs of poor mental health in youth is now recognised as one of the key health imperatives globally.

Commenting on the launch, Dr Helen Coughlan, Clinical Research Fellow at the Department of Psychiatry RCSI, said:

Being young in Ireland can be challenging. Findings from our research have shown that that many young people are struggling with stress, anxiety, low mood and a sense of isolation and disconnection from others. Oftentimes, they experience these issues privately and in silence without ever letting other people know.

Anxiety - RCSI #YMHanimate Project - YouTube

“Working with our partners, the IADT, the HSE and SpunOut.ie and the HRB, we have been able to give voice to these shared experiences among Irish youth through this project. We hope that any young person who watches the animations will feel less alone and more able to reach out for support if they are struggling with any of the issues captured so sensitively in the animations.”

Officially launching the series, Senator Lynn Ruane, said: “Promoting positive mental health amongst young people is an integral part of promoting mental health in the overall population. This initiative, undertaken by RCSI is a great way to encourage young people to fulfil their potential and cope with the challenges they face during this key developmental period and into the future.”

Also welcoming the new initiative, David Quin, IADT lecturer in animation at the National Film School, said:

This project was a journey, and our students wholly appreciated the value of that journey. In addition to working with exemplary institutions, our students were able to take part in a project that will have a positive impact on the lives of young people in Ireland. We have created these animations keeping in mind that the best way to reach youth is by presenting messages in a relatable and accessible manner.”

Dr Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said: “These are simple stories about complex issues, honestly told. I believe these animations will resonate with young people and I hope anyone who is experiencing anxiety, bullying, not fitting in, depression and loneliness can benefit from the key messages conveyed. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this project which is an excellent example of how health research can be translated in an accessible way to benefit people’s health.”

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The current lack of access to child and adolescent mental health services in Ireland for young people with autism is a clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and must be addressed as a priority, the 2019 Spring Conference of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland heard. This article was written by Priscilla Lynch and was published in the Medical Independent on 26/04/19

During a dedicated session on autism spectrum disorder, Mr Adam Harris, founder of autism advocacy organisation As I Am, discussed the need to make mental health services more inclusive, respectful and accessible for autistic people.

Stigma is a huge issue in autism and a key barrier to seeking a diagnosis and help, he noted. The presentation of autism is also very diverse, unlike the common preconceptions of the condition, and one-in-65 students in Irish education have a diagnosis of autism, Mr Harris stated.

He said people with autism are more at risk of having mental health issues, yet find it harder to access services, with an over-focus on their autism when they do access them, leaving mental health conditions under-diagnosed and under-treated. He also contended that there is an over-focus on children’s services, when adults with autism need as much, if not more, help.

Mr Harris outlined the key findings of a newly-published survey carried out on behalf of As I Am, which found that Irish people strongly support the education of autistic people in mainstream schools and have a lot of goodwill but low levels of understanding on many autism issues.

“The critical finding of this survey is the gap between public support for inclusion and reality. Despite positive public sentiment, over 85 per cent of autistic people are under or unemployed, autistic people are up to nine times more likely to die by suicide. Social isolation, particularly among autistic adults, remains a norm. The people’s attitudes are ahead of the Government’s efforts to include autistic people. For over five years, the Government have allowed successive Autism Bills and proposed strategies to languish on the floor of the Oireachtas, whilst at the same time assuring the community of its support,” he said.

Mr Harris called on the medical profession to “please believe us, please listen to us”, and called for more medical education on autism and for medical services to be more accommodating to their autistic patients.

Also speaking during this session, Dr Marc Woodbury-Smith, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, said that as autism has many common comorbidities, these patients need a tailored, individualised approach, with early diagnosis and appropriate intervention linked to better long-term outcomes. However, he warned against over sub-specialisation and services operating in silos, as this means patients have to see many different services to be treated, which in reality does not work well.

Dr Woodbury-Smith said prescribing should be about treating “vulnerabilities as opposed to autistic symptoms”.

He stressed the need to believe patients when they said they had autism, and pointed out that, like so many other health services, GP surgeries are a hostile environment for patients with autism, therefore some effort must be made to facilitate their needs.

“Adults with autism are under-represented in screening programmes and the reason is they are not going to their GP because they cannot cope in that environment. We need to try to facilitate them so they can cope and reasonable adjustments may be relatively minor things like lighting and noise, but it really needs to be done,” he told the Medical Independent (MI).

The last speaker in the session, Prof Louise Gallagher, Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin, spoke about how new discoveries in the neurobiological underpinnings of autism (altered white-matter development, etc) are increasing the knowledge base on this condition and informing the development of new therapies.

She commented that while pharma companies are very keen to use this information to develop new treatments and therapies, “we are not going to find a very simple treatment for complex conditions and service access is currently a bigger challenge”.

“We already have significant needs about trying to appropriately treat the mental health comorbidities of autistic people and our services are challenged to do that. In the context of all the pressures we have on delivering healthcare services and mental health services, how do we address the needs of autistic people more generally in the face of expanding needs and limited resources,” she told MI, adding that GP education needs to be more focused on autism.

Prof Gallagher pointed out that psychotropic prescribing and polypharmacy are common in people with autism, leading to increased negative physical heath risk factors such as seizures, cardiometabolic side-effects and poor lifestyle behaviours.

“The main message is that we are currently using drug therapy to treat comorbidities. We are challenged in differentiating between comorbidities and autistic symptoms and there may be a lot of relationships between those, either on a psychological level because an autistic person is challenged in their environment, and that might be stressful and might induce anxiety or depression. Similarly, we are challenged, as people with autism may respond differently to the drug therapies we are prescribing but it is really important that we are making efforts to treat autism comorbidities, because we know from recent epidemiological studies in Scandinavia in particular that suicide is a very significant cause of premature death in autistic people without intellectual disability, in addition to factors such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

Prof Gallagher chairs the College’s Autism Special Interest Group, which is currently working on putting together a position paper on mental health service provision for these patients that it hopes to publish next year, she confirmed to MI.

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Borderline personality disorder continues to be a very stigmatised condition but it can be treated with talking therapies of which psychiatrists need to be better informed, according to a clinician specialising in the treatment of these patients. This article was written by Priscilla Lynch and was published in the Medical Independent on 26/04/19

During a special workshop at the 2019 College of Psychiatrists of Ireland Spring Conference, Dr Evelyn McCabe, Consultant Psychiatrist, Community Mental Health Centre, Ballina, Co Mayo, explained how borderline personality disorder is associated with high morbidity and mortality: It has a lifetime prevalence of up to 6 per cent in the general population; is associated with 10-to-30 per cent of psychiatric outpatient visits; 20 per cent of psychiatric inpatient stays; and 14-to-23 per cent of prison populations. It is highly comorbid with addiction, eating disorders and recurrent depressive disorders — 70 per cent will make at least one attempt at suicide and 8-to-10 per cent will die by suicide; 50 times the rate in the general population. However, about 40 per cent of personality disorder patients are misdiagnosed, she noted.

Futhermore, despite growing awareness of the condition, borderline personality disorder has long been stigmatised and is often considered untreatable, by both clinicians and the public.

Dr McCabe acknowledged that people with personality disorders are often hard to reach and can be “very challenging” for clinicians to work with and there are no specialist services in the Republic.

Treatment-wise, she discussed the psychotherapeutic evidenced-based approach to personality disorder. Dr McCabe explained that people with personality disorders are poor at “mentalising themselves and others” and she promoted the benefits of mentalisation-based therapy (MBT).

She quoted data showing MBT significantly reduced outpatient presentations, psychiatric inpatient bed days and episodes of self-harm in personality disorder patients.

Chair of the workshop Dr Alyson Lee noted that the HSE has set up a working group looking at models of care for delivering talking therapies in specialist mental health services. She said the College has set up its own working group on developing a position paper on treating personality disorders, which it hopes to publish by the end of the year or early in 2020. Both Dr Lee and Dr McCabe said psychiatrists need to deliver psychotherapy to their patients, and not just leave it to psychotherapists.

Meanwhile, also discussing the treatment of personality disorders during the conference, UK speaker Prof Anthony Bateman outlined the benefits of talking therapies in treating these patients. He maintained that they should not be routinely prescribed pharmacological treatments (except for comorbid conditions which need to be carefully considered), as they provide no benefit.

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People with severe mental illnesses are much more likely to die younger, which needs to be better addressed by health services, including psychiatrists tackling physical health issues in their patients, the 2019 Spring Conference of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland heard. This article was written by Priscilla Lynch and was published in the Medical Independent on 26/04/19

Dr Peter Byrne, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist at the Royal London Hospital, UK, discussed the main drivers of premature death in people with severe mental illness, which include: Obesity; stroke; cardiovascular disease; liver disease; smoking-related illness, ie, lung cancer; suicide and drug addiction; compounded by health inequalities in this population.

He noted that mental health patients are diagnosed later than the general population with these conditions and they receive less treatment: “Our services are not working for these patients,” he commented, quoting recent life expectancy data in England for males with serious mental illness corresponding to that of general population males in the 1950s.

Dr Byrne noted that about 17 per cent of the general population smoke, compared to about 40 per cent of those with severe mental illness, rising to 70 per cent in discharged psychiatric inpatients, and reaching 90 per cent in those with a mental disorder and addiction issues. He contended that psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals do not adequately promote smoking cessation to mental health patients and this must change.

There is this attitude that ‘it’s all they have’, and that somehow it is a human right to smoke yourself to death — it isn’t.”

Dr Byrne maintained that psychiatrists are best placed to help their patients quit smoking, being experts in addiction and the bio-psychosocial model, thus mental health services need to get over the attitude that “physical health isn’t our job”.

He promoted the use of nicotine replacement products, varenicline and e-cigarettes (“they have their drawbacks but they are substantially safer than smoking”) to help patients quit smoking. “With smoking, it is a no-brainer. We need to be doing these things and doing them consistently. If we [psychiatry and mental health services] don’t do them, they won’t be done. ‘Can’t someone else do this’ is not an adequate professional response.”

Dr Byrne also discussed the importance of reducing alcohol consumption and promoting healthy diets and lifestyle in mental health patients, and the need for psychiatrists to also become involved in this area. He voiced support for public health initiatives such as anti-obesity and exercise strategies and minimum alcohol pricing legislation.

Concluding, Dr Byrne said tackling physical health issues in mental health patients is an urgent problem and needs a multi-pronged approach, including using the ‘soft power’ of the psychiatry profession to help inform and influence policy-makers.

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Please note that this job is NOT approved as a College recognised training post at this time

REGISTRAR IN CHILD & ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY (MA1118)

Applications are invited, from suitably qualified candidates, for the following six month post, commencing 8th July 2019.

Job Posted: Friday, 26th April 2019
Closing Date: Friday, 10th May 2019, by 5.00pm

The Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service is a multidisciplinary service for children with on-going medical attendance at hospital.  This position offers an exciting opportunity to gain six months experience in Child & Adolescent liaison psychiatry. We offer expertise in managing mental health issues across the continuum of paediatric illness. As one of the three paediatric liaison services in Ireland, we have a busy research department with several active areas of interest.

Candidates must ideally have an interest in working with young people and families, with previous experience in psychiatry essential. All applicants must be registered with the Irish Medical Council (IMC).

Application may be made by forwarding one copy of your Curriculum Vitae together with the names and addresses of three referees (one of whom should be current) to Medical Administration, Children’s Health Ireland at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin 1 or via email to medical.staffing@cuh.ie .

An equal opportunities policy applies to this post

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Editor-In-Chief, Dr John Lyne, and Trainee Editor, Dr Kevin Glynn, highlight key themes and papers from the most recent issue of the College’s official research journal, the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. Volume 36, Issue 1 looks at home-based treatment, vulnerable populations and ethics in psychiatry.

A move away from the institutionalisation that characterised psychiatric care in the early 19th century towards a community-based treatment model for mental illness has represented one of the most important advances in mental health care in the last few decades. This movement has been replicated internationally across several health systems and has contributed to the development of more intensive community-based treatments such as day hospitals and home based treatment teams. In his editorial on home-based treatment, McGarry (pp. 3-5) emphasises that the widespread implementation of home-based treatment teams in the United Kingdom has been a positive development, with most studies showing a reduction in admission rates and high levels of satisfaction among patients and carers.

A specific recommendation of the Irish mental health policy document, ‘A Vision for Change’, was the implementation of well-resourced home-based treatment teams, with a view of minimising the need for inpatient treatment. Development of this model has steadily progressed throughout Ireland resulting in substantial improvement in community mental health service delivery; however, implementation has not been universal. A lack of national service evaluation and research has hindered progress further. In this issue O’Keefe and Russell (pp. 7-17) present an all-Ireland survey of home-based treatment teams using online questionnaires. They report that while these services are viewed positively by the professionals involved, the functioning and staffing levels of these teams vary widely. The authors advocate for an all-Ireland forum to help define and standardise homebased treatment teams into the future.

A more detailed look at an individual home-based treatment team in North Cork was undertaken by Lalevic et al. (pp. 29-33). They found that the most common reason for referral was affective disorders and that the majority of service users did not require subsequent hospital admission. While further research is evidently needed on home-based treatment teams, these studies point to their positive impact, as well as to the need for more widespread implementation in line with government policy.

The increased prevalence of mental illness among the most vulnerable groups in society is reflected in two papers in the current issue. Hynes et al. (pp. 19-22) took on the challenging task of assessing mental illness among the homeless rough sleepers in Dublin. Of those assessed, they found high rates of severe mental illness, substance misuse and dual diagnosis. In a further study related to this theme, Gulati et al. (pp. 35-45) metaanalysis reports high rates of homelessness on committal to Irish prisons, as well as high rates of psychotic disorder and substance misuse disorders. These two studies draw attention to the complex relationship between mental illness, homelessness and committal to prison, highlighting the need for adequate social care and mental health resources for these vulnerable populations.

The challenge of conducting research on vulnerable populations is considered in an article by Finnegan and O’Donohue (pp. 63-71). The paper reflects on the importance of ethical practices in research, while also highlighting the importance of not excluding vulnerable populations in research. The authors explore methods for overcoming barriers to this important research, which can ensure that vulnerable populations also benefit from any healthcare progress emanating from research endeavours.

Devitt and Kelly (pp. 47-54) also highlight ethical issues among vulnerable populations using recent international examples of institutional abuse, while drawing parallels to the history of abuses committed in some Irish institutions. This provides a stark reminder of what can happen in extreme cases where ethical standards and human rights are ignored. Few could argue against the authors’ assertion that human rights and ethics should form a key component in the training and ongoing professional development of all mental health professionals.

Complex ethical and legal issues are reviewed in Gulati et al.’s (pp. 55-60) perspective piece focusing on hunger strikes in prisons. The authors point out that while hunger strikes are rare, there is a dearth of legal guidance for psychiatrists in such circumstances, suggesting that this area requires further scrutiny.

On a lighter note, O’Sullivan et al. (pp. 23-27) demonstrate how Google’s Ngram viewer can be utilised to explore trends in word usage about themes related to psychiatry over the last 500 years. The study provides fascinating insights into the history of psychiatry, including the relevance of prominent figures in psychiatry, as well as trends in psychiatric terminology across time.

Finally, the mental health issues experienced by a modern-day prominent figure is a recurring theme in a book reviewed by Maher (p. 73), who recommends reading Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography ‘Born to Run’.

College members can access the IJPM for free by clicking here (College login required). The IJPM is also now available on PubMed.
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Psychiatry Section HST & BST Competitions, Thursday 30th May 2019 The Psychiatry Section of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (RAMI) and the Faculty of Academic Psychiatry of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland present the HST & BST Competition on Thursday 30th May 2019 in RCSI, Albert Theatre, Dublin 2.

All details regarding the guidelines for submitting abstracts at PsychCOMP2019 Please read guidelines before you submit abstract.

The competition commences at 18:30 (6:30pm) although we would ask that you arrive in plenty of time beforehand. A bronze medal will be awarded to the winners of both competitions.  Closing Date for Abstracts extended to Tuesday 30th April 2019

Submit your Abstract now
Register your attendance.

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Job Vacancy The College of Psychiatrist of Ireland is recruiting for the role of Operations Manager – Postgraduate Training and Education

COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS OF IRELAND

The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland is a professional membership organisation recognised by the HSE and Medical Council for delivering training in Ireland for Psychiatrists.  It also has an advocacy role to advise on better mental health services in Ireland.

The College is recruiting an experienced Operations Manager to manage the operation of the postgraduate training and education function of the College.

This is a senior management role in the College and the successful candidate will be responsible for co-ordinating and scheduling the different elements of the postgraduate function of the College to operate seamlessly and efficiently.  The candidate will be responsible for a number of team members and provide support as necessary to the other managers in postgraduate training who are delivering on the College examination and continuous assessment function of postgraduate training.

_________________________________________________________________________________    

JOB DESCRIPTION Job Title: Operations Manager – Postgraduate Training and Education
Reporting To: Chief Executive
_________________________________________________________________________________     JOB PURPOSE:

To manage the operations of the Postgraduate Training and Education function of the College.

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES: The successful candidate’s role will oversee the operations of all functions of Postgraduate Training and Education in the College which includes:
  • The implementation of the Basic and Higher Specialist Training Programmes in Psychiatry.
  • Accreditation and Continuous Assessment
  • Training courses/events as part of the training programmes.
  • Recruitment competitions in relation to Basic and Higher Specialist Psychiatric Trainees.
  • The College examination.
  • Other duties, as required, in relation to ongoing Department functions, e.g. Trainee Curriculum,

Assessment, Examination or Accreditation issues.

PERSON SPECIFICATION

Essential Skills:

  • A relevant 3rd level qualification with proven capability and 2-3 years’ experience in a comparable role.
  • Excellent organisational, management, leadership with skilful attention to detail
  • Outstanding communication and interpersonal skills combined with sound judgment are required to facilitate work with a wide range of individuals and groups.
  • Demonstrate capability and sensitivity to manage key business relationships as the role involves a high degree of interaction and collaboration with key stakeholders.
  • Self-starter with high motivation and the ability to work flexibly on own initiative and as part of a team to achieve goals within agreed timeframes.
  • Strong writing skills with experience in drafting and preparing reports, letters, presentations etc.
  • Ability to manage time and prioritise with an ability to be flexible in the approach to work.
  • Proven organisational capability and high levels of personal effectiveness. The person is expected to handle a varied and diverse workload to meet deadlines while ensuring accuracy, timeliness and meticulous attention to detail.
  • Strong intellectual, analytical and thinking skills.
  • Experience in managing a team and ability to motivate and inspire a team.
  • Excellent ICT skills with the capacity to maximise digital technology to increase efficiencies in processes and procedures and as an effective communications and engagement tool. In particular advanced MS Excel, Word & Outlook skills, and the ability to work efficiently with multiple systems of information
  • Ability to respond quickly and effectively to resolve complex operational issues.
  • Proven track records of constructing and monitoring budgets.
  • Experience of successful resource management.
  • Experience of successfully delivering an efficient operational environment.
  • Excellent negotiating and diplomacy skills.
  • Experience of working both in a team and on own initiative, flexibility is essential.

Desirable Skills:

  • Experience in a medical administration environment and of collaborating with clinical specialists desirable.
  • Experience of recruitment and some knowledge of employment law
  • Experience working with databases is desirable.
  • Project Management experience desirable.

To apply for this role please send a CV and cover letter with details of your relevant experience and suitability for the role to the Chief Executive at info@irishpsychiatry.ie

Employment at the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland

  • The College is an equal opportunities employer.
  • 35 hour working week
  • 20 days annual leave per year plus bank holidays and Christmas closure period.

Salary
This is a senior management role in the College and a competitive salary commensurate with experience will apply. A probationary period will also apply.
More information about the College is available on the website: www.irishpsychiatry.ie

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Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley believes we need a “new wave of authentic and appropriate mental health discussions”. This article was published in the Life, Health and Wellbeing section of the Irish Independent on 15/04/2019

So what are we doing wrong? Why is it that we are becoming more anxious and stressed than ever – before despite the fact that almost everywhere we go somebody somewhere is advising us to take care of our mental health? It doesn’t really make sense – unless, of course, all this emphasis on mental health is leading us even further down the rabbit hole?

I recently attended an event where a woman mentioned that she wasn’t sleeping well. The sheer number of well-meant, earnest pieces of advice this hapless woman received that night was extraordinary. No half-baked theory was left unstated.

But did all this advice do the woman any good? Probably not.

In a world where it only takes a moment to consult ‘Dr Google’ and where everyone seems to have done some sort of vague course that leads them to believe that they are an expert, pseudo-psychology is spreading faster than an unexplained rash.

The ‘illusory truth effect’ phenomenon means that repetition has an extraordinary impact on our minds and the more we hear even the most outlandish claims, the more likely we will eventually believe it is the truth. You might think that the familiarity of the message has no effect on you, but science tells us otherwise. This is why we need to resist repeating mindless phrases such as: ‘It’s good to talk’ as these glib, over-simplified messages can be unhelpful. Of course the basic point of this particular message is perfect; yes it is good to talk. But it’s good to listen too and there seems to be plenty of rubbish listeners out there. Sadly, in our busy culture, many people are too impatient, too self-absorbed or too stressed themselves to be able to listen properly.

The problem is that it’s only good to talk if it’s at the right time with the right person in the right way. It is true that if we to talk to someone who is kind, thoughtful and empathic, we will feel a million times better. But a difficult conversation with a semi-professional armchair healer can be disastrous and the speaker can be left feeling inadequate, misunderstood and isolated.

Take, for example a patient of mine called May. She was 22-years-old when she came to me for counselling. She had been feeling anxious and isolated for many years and she thought she’d try counselling as a last-ditch attempt to see if she could pull herself out of the hole. ‘I try to tell my friends about my feelings,’ May told me in that first session. ‘But they’re a bit weird about it – to be honest, I think they enjoy the drama of it all.’ These friends tried to be motivational by repeating phrases like: ‘Think positive thoughts!’ or ‘Get it all out and you’ll feel better!’ But May seldom felt better after talking with her friends, indeed she often felt a good deal worse. Over time May and I established a strong therapeutic connection and she no longer feels so troubled. Thankfully she has also found some more suitable friends who are better listeners.

Mental health slogans that we see plastered all over social media and on public walls are often inadvertently taken out of context, dumbed down beyond recognition, and assimilated as if they are the answer to everything. Slogans such as ‘listen to your gut’ and ‘focus on your feelings’ might seem great at first glance however, when we consider that the emotional part of the brain is the most powerful, the fastest and also the stupidest part of any person’s brain, we soon realise that it is often inappropriate to be excessively led by our emotions.

Do not, please, do not rely on your emotional brain to excessively influence your decisions – because, if you do, you will be using the least intelligent part of your brain to dictate your behaviour. It is much better to use our wise brain when we are making important decisions as this is the part of the brain that provides us with much more wisdom than our emotional brain.

Although we should always include and respect a person’s feelings in any given situation, it just doesn’t do to focus only on your gut feelings and ignore the facts. Our feelings seldom bring us to a higher level.

It is our feelings that encourage us to message an ex in a drastic, drunken late-night moment; it is our feelings that lead us to have an anxiety episode right before an interview, the very moment when we wish to be on top of our game; it is our feelings that seduce us into thinking that volatile arguments with strangers on social media are an effective and satisfying way to spend an evening.

Being led by your emotions, by your ‘gut instinct’ can feel very powerful and satisfying – in the short-term – but, in the long-term, reflection trumps feelings.

The phrase: ‘You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to get up and walk’ is yet another mindless phrase that is often misused and abused. Well, no, we wouldn’t, but we would help our loved ones to engage in the recovery process and to attend the relevant appointments and if they refused to do this then we would feel understandably disheartened, dejected and disappointed about this.

Comparing a mental illness with Alzheimer’s is perhaps a better comparison than the usual, hackneyed broken leg analogy because, just for starters, Alzheimer’s is a condition in the brain so it’s closer to what is going on with the mentally ill person. It also contains the understanding that it can be almost impossible to penetrate the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s. We need to work around it, putting the keys on a ribbon around the person’s neck if that works, but equally, when their lives aren’t independently manageable, then others need to step in and help. So if the life of a person with mental illness has become unmanageable then it needs to be acknowledged, whether this is a person living with Alzheimer’s, alcoholism or anxiety. Continuing to pretend that it is up to the person who is experiencing the mental illness to seek help is sometimes, but not always inappropriate. Sometimes an intervention is appropriate when a person who has a mental illness refuses, for whatever reason, to get help.

I’ve no doubt that since we were living in caves, hackneyed, simple-minded phrases have always been uttered as if they contain great depths: I can easily imagine the cave-mother comforting her heart broken teenage daughter with: ‘What’s for you won’t pass you’ as she proffered her a bone to chew. But now that mental health has become a mainstream topic of conversation, now that we have semi-qualified personal trainers and life coaches mouthing simplistic ‘inspirational’ phrases at every turn, we need to develop this conversation towards a deeper and more thoughtful place.

Existing slogans:
  • Talk so someone.
  • It’s good to talk.
  • Ask for help.
  • Focus on your feelings.
  • Listen to your gut.
  • If it feels wrong, don’t do it.
  • There are no bad feelings, just feelings.
  • It’s okay not to be okay.
Improved slogan
  • Find someone with whom you can connect and you will feel better if you open up.
  • It’s good to talk to the right person at the right time.
  • Ask for help, and keep asking until you get the help you need.
  • Acknowledge your feelings and always consider the facts as well.
  • Listen to your gut, but also listen to your wise brain for even better counsel.
  • If it feels wrong, consider that we often have to suffer short-term pain for long-term gain
  • Bad feelings, when addressed, can change into good feelings.
  • It’s okay to try and feel better.

Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist, writer and public speaker. For further information you can visit: stellaomalley.com

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