Mental health services

Introduction

Your family doctor is usually the first person to approach in relation to mental health concerns. Many people go to their family doctor (GP) with mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. In some cases, the GP may refer you to a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist or addiction counsellor.

To find out about the mental health services and supports available in your area, call the YourMentalHealth information line on Freephone 1800 111 888.

Urgent help

If you need to get urgent help for a mental health issue and your GP is not available, you can contact a GP out-of-hours service or access mental health services through your local mental health unit or hospital. Alternatively, call 999 or 112 if you or someone you know needs emergency help.

Health services at your Local Health Office

The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides a range of community-based mental health services. The mental health team normally includes a consultant psychiatrist, registrar in psychiatry, and nurses. In many areas, the services of an addiction counsellor, psychologist, social worker and occupational therapist are available.

When you are referred to a psychiatrist

You may be referred for an out-patient appointment or, in an emergency, an immediate appointment may be arranged. The psychiatrist will meet with you to discuss your mental health problems and to explain the treatment options available.

Out-patient treatment

Out-patient treatment options include:

  • Out-patient clinics
  • Day hospitals or day centres
  • Home visits from the mental health team
  • Clinical psychological services
  • Addiction counselling services
  • Social work or occupational therapy services
  • GP care

Out-patient and community services

The aim of out-patient and community services is to treat and support individuals in their own homes and communities where possible. GPs are central to the delivery of community care services.

An out-patient clinic is a clinic that you attend for an assessment or for follow-up treatment. These facilities are often based in community health centres and are staffed by a consultant psychiatrist, community psychiatric nurses and other members of the mental health team, as required.

A day hospital is a day facility you can attend from home or from a care setting, for assessment, treatment or nursing care. It is usually seen as an alternative to hospital admission. The consultant psychiatrist who sees you in an out-patient clinic will usually treat you in the day hospital also.

You may attend a day centre in your community for continuing support. Day centres are staffed by psychiatric nurses and, occasionally, occupational therapists. The aim is to provide activities in a friendly and supportive environment.

A sheltered workshop is a community facility where the emphasis is on work activity suited to your skills or needs with support and guidance from trained staff.

Admission to hospital

Most people who have mental health problems are treated without going to hospital or may go to hospital for treatment by choice. If you are admitted by choice you are known as a voluntary patient.

Occasionally, someone may have to be admitted for mental health treatment and care against their will. This is called involuntary admission. You can only be admitted against your will under rules that are set out in law to make sure this only happens if it is absolutely necessary.

For more information see our document on admission to a psychiatric hospital.

In-patient services

In-patient services are usually medical and nursing care provided in a hospital.

If you are admitted to hospital, you are assessed and treated in an area called an acute admission ward. After treatment, most patients will be discharged home for follow-up care by the out-patients clinic or day hospital. Some patients may be transferred from an admission unit to a continuing care ward or a rehabilitation ward according to their needs.

Sometimes it may be necessary to care for and treat a patient in a safe and restricted environment. This is usually a small unit within a hospital setting staffed by highly trained psychiatric nurses. The unit is locked and the environment is secure.

Residential units

High-support group home: This is a home for people who do not need to be in hospital and who can live in the community but who require 24-hour nursing care and support for a variety of reasons. Some people may spend a period of time in a high support residence and then move on into a medium or low support residence.

Medium-support group home: This is a home for people who are fairly independent in most areas of their everyday living skills but who require some assistance or support in certain areas, for example, managing finances or cooking skills. For this reason, the home is staffed, usually by day only, by either a nurse or a trained care staff.

Low-support group home: These residential units are for individuals who are independent in most, if not all, areas of their everyday living skills. The overall upkeep and management of the group home is co-ordinated by the hospital management. The residents may have a community psychiatric nurse or supervisor who will check on them as required.

Where to apply

To find out about the mental health supports available in your area, call the YourMentalHealth information line on Freephone 1800 111 888.

You can find local mental health services on yourmentalhealth.ie.

Page edited: 2 December 2019