Frequently asked questions about mental health supports

Get helpful and practical information about mental health and our services.

Here in St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS), our team has gathered answers to some of the most common questions we are asked about our services and mental health supports.

If you are looking for advice or have questions about our services or mental health, the information below aims to provide useful guidance and a helpful starting point.

Questions about referrals

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  • How do I get referred for an adult inpatient stay?

    To receive inpatient care here in SPMHS, in most cases, you will need to arrange an appointment with your GP. If, following assessment, your GP finds that you would benefit from one of our services, they can refer you to SPMHS. Your GP can get detailed information about how to refer to SPMHS on our website.

    In some circumstances, if you are under the care of a psychiatrist outside of SPMHS, they may refer you to SPMHS. If you are already receiving care from a SPMHS psychiatrist, they may also refer you for an inpatient admission.

    When we receive your referral, a member of our Referral and Assessment Service’s team will contact you to discuss your referral.

    Your referral will then be assessed by a consultant psychiatrist in SPMHS to identify the most appropriate service for you, which may be an inpatient admission. 

    Please note that the referral process outlined above applies to adults only; you can find more information on referrals for adolescents below.

  • How do I get referred for the adult Homecare service?

    Through our Homecare service, we deliver high quality mental healthcare to service users in their own homes.

    To be admitted to the adult Homecare service, in general, you would first need to be assessed by your GP who can then refer you to SPMHS if they feel you need care and treatment for your mental health.

    In some cases, you can be referred to SPMHS through others:

    • A psychiatrist outside of SPMHS whose care you are under may refer you
    • An SPMHS psychiatrist may refer you for Homecare if you are already under the care of SPMHS.

    A member of our Referral and Assessment Service team will contact you after we receive your referral to discuss this with you. A consultant psychiatrist here in SPMHS will then assess your referral to identify which service may be best for you, which may include the Homecare service.

    Please note that there may be situations where a physical admission or inpatient stay may be needed prior to Homecare.

    The information above applies to referrals for people aged 18 and over only. You can find information on referrals for adolescents further below.

  • How do I get referred for a Dean Clinic (outpatient) assessment?

    The Dean Clinics are our community or outpatient mental health clinics. The Dean Clinics offer mental health assessment, outpatient appointments, and follow-up care after inpatient or Homecare admission. Our Dean Clinics provide care for both adult and adolescent service users.

    To access our Dean Clinics, you generally first need to visit your GP, who can refer you to SPMHS, if their assessment finds that you would benefit from mental healthcare.

    Your GP will need to send a referral for you to our Referral and Assessment Service; there is detailed referral information for GPs on our website. A consultant psychiatrist will review your referral to identify if we have an appropriate service to meet your needs.

    If you are in our inpatient or Homecare services, a member of your multidisciplinary team may also refer you to the Dean Clinics for follow-up care.

  • How can referrals for adolescent services be made?

    We provide a range of mental health services for young people aged under 18. Our Willow Grove Adolescent Unit offers inpatient and Homecare services to young people between the ages of 12 and 17. Through our dedicated Adolescent Dean Clinic and our Dean Clinic Cork, we also offer assessment and therapy, tailored to the young person’s needs, at an outpatient or community-based level.

    Referrals to our adolescent services can be made by GPs, by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) teams, by paediatric or general hospitals, or by psychiatrists outside of SPMHS. Referrals are assessed to identify if we have a service which would meet the young person’s needs.

    If a young person receives care through Willow Grove, follow-up services may be identified for the young person.

    You can learn more here about our adolescent services.

  • How do I get a referral for day programmes?

    We have a wide range of day programmes; you can get information on our day programmes here.

    Most of our day programmes can be accessed if you are already receiving inpatient or Homecare services in SPMHS; you can be directly referred to one of our day programmes by your multidisciplinary team.

    We also accept direct referrals from GPs and other mental health services into some of our day programmes, including:

    If you are not currently receiving care in SPMHS, you will need a referral from your GP. If you are under the care of a psychiatrist outside of SPMHS, they may refer you to SPMHS. Once received, your referral will be reviewed to identify if there is an SPMHS service or day programme which meets your needs.

    Please note that our day programmes are open to adults over 18 only; please see the question above to learn more about our adolescent services, or go to the adolescent services area of our website to see more.

  • Can I get referred to a clinical or counselling psychologist?

    Here in SPMHS, our Psychology Department is an integral part of our multidisciplinary approach to care delivery. As such, access to services from our Psychology Department is facilitated through comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment; this assessment will help to identify a care plan which includes the services that will best meet your needs. Therefore, we cannot accept referrals directly to the psychologists in our Psychology Department.

    We are accepting referrals directly from GPs for some group psychology programmes, including Compassion-Focused Therapy for Eating Disorders and Compassion-Focused Therapy for Psychosis.

    If you are looking for an individual psychology service specifically, and no other multidisciplinary services, please discuss this with your GP. They may decide you to refer you to SPMHS, who will assess your referral and identify if there is an appropriate service we can offer you; this may include a group psychology programme or another group day programme.

Questions about treatments and services

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Questions about your mental health

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  • What should I do if I think I may have a mental health difficulty?

    If you are worried about your mental health, please know that there are supports available and that recovery is possible.

    Start by talking to someone you trust, like a family member or friend; talking to others can be relieving and reassuring.

    You should visit your GP and explain how you are feeling to them. Your GP may be able to give you more information and guidance, or refer you to a mental health service or support.

    If you are in a crisis and need urgent help, please contact your GP or your out-of-hours GP. If you cannot get in touch with them, please go the Emergency Department of your nearest general hospital, or call the emergency services on 999 or 112 in the Republic of Ireland.

  • What should I do if I have questions about my medication?

    If you or someone you know has any questions or concerns regarding mental health medication, the independent Choice and Medication website is a very helpful source of information.

    Additionally, you or they could contact the GP or psychiatrist who prescribed the medication, or speak with the pharmacist who dispensed the medication.

    It is important not to change or alter your medication without first seeking advice from your medical professional or treating team.

    You might find it helpful to see our medication safety series for more information about mental health medication.

Questions about supporting other people

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  • What should I do if I think a family member or friend may have a mental health difficulty?

    If you are concerned that someone you know may have a mental health difficulty, it is important to remember that there is help available.

    It is important to encourage the person to talk to someone, to be informed and to get support.

    You should encourage the person to make an appointment to see their GP, who can talk to them, assess what’s going on for them, and provide information and guidance. The GP may decide to refer the person to a mental health service or team for more support.

    If you are worried that someone is very unwell and may be at risk to themselves or to others, you should, again, encourage them to go see their GP. If it is late in the evening or at night, you can contact an out-of-hours GP service.

    If the person is in a crisis situation and can’t get in touch with a GP, go with them to the Emergency Department of your nearest general hospital and request a review. Alternatively, you can contact the emergency services by phoning 999 or 112 in the Republic of Ireland.

  • What should I do if I think a family member or a friend may have an eating disorder?

    If you are concerned that someone you know has an eating disorder, it is best to seek help through their GP, who may make a referral to a mental health team.

    Depending on the severity of their symptoms, the person may need a combination of different treatments or services; this can be decided between the person and the treating team.

    The GP and nutritionist can look after the person’s physical health and dietary needs. A psychotherapist or psychologist can help the person examine, understand and work through the issues underlying their eating disorder. This may be supported by a treatment programme, which would use a multidisciplinary approach involving nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, psychiatrists and therapists.

    You can find out more here about our Eating Disorder Service. The Eating Disorder Service team also share some information on treatment options for eating disorders here.

    You might also find it helpful to learn more about or get in touch with Bodywhys, which is the national voluntary organisation dedicated to supporting people in Ireland affected by eating disorders.

  • What support is available to relatives or friends of someone with a mental health difficulty?

    The experience of supporting someone else through a mental health difficulty can be challenging; it can take a significant toll on friends and loved ones. It is important that you acknowledge your own need for support, and that you identify support mechanisms for yourself at this time.

    Looking after your own needs first is not only a healthy behaviour, but it puts you in a stronger position to support your family member or friend.

    It may be possible to access support groups or family therapy through the team treating your loved one.

    You might find it helpful to watch our family information series, which covers diverse topics and questions relating to how families and friends can support people experiencing mental health difficulties. If your family member or friend is receiving care with us in SPMHS, you may also wish to see our Carers and Supporters Information Guide.

    You can also find out more about Aware’s relative groups here.

  • What should I do if a friend or family member is at risk and does not believe they need treatment?

    If you are concerned about a loved one who has signs of a mental health difficulty, but does not recognise or acknowledge it, the person may be referred for an involuntary admission under the Mental Health Act. The Mental Health Commission explains that, “sometimes, a person may have to be admitted to hospital for mental health treatment against their will. This is called involuntary admission.”

    There are specific guidelines in place around involuntary admissions. The Mental Health Commission has produced a booklet for family members and friends on the involuntary admission process, which you might find helpful.

  • My child who is under 18 appears to be struggling with their mental health; where can I get help?

    If you think your child needs help, your first point of contact should be with your GP. The GP can discuss mental health treatment options with you and your child. Following assessment by the GP, they may recommend that your child is referred for an assessment with a mental health team.

    The GP may suggest that your child may need to spend some time as an inpatient in an adolescent hospital or unit, or may suggest that the young person attend an outpatient appointment.

    Here in SPMHS, Willow Grove is our adolescent unit, which provides inpatient and Homecare services for young people aged 12 to 17. You can learn more about Willow Grove here.

    We also provide community-based or outpatient care for adolescents through our Dean Clinic Cork and our Adolescent Dean Clinic in Dublin.

    You might also find it helpful to watch our webinar on adolescent mental health and the roles of parents and families in supporting young people experiencing mental health difficulties.

  • What should I say to someone who I’m concerned about?

    Sometimes, it is hard to know what to say when speaking to a loved one about mental health. You might fear that, if you bring up your worries, they might get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.

    If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help.

    Remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. Encourage the person to talk about their feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment.

    Don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.

    Ways to start the conversation

    • I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
    • Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
    • I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.

    Questions you can ask

    • When did you begin feeling like this?
    • Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
    • How can I best support you right now?
    • Have you thought about getting help?

    Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that they will understand.

    What you can say that helps

    • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
    • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
    • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
    • You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
    • Tell me what I can do now to help you.

    What to avoid saying

    • It’s all in your head.
    • We all go through times like this.
    • Look on the bright side.
    • You have so much to live for.
    • I can’t do anything about your situation.
    • Just snap out of it.
    • What’s wrong with you?
    • Shouldn’t you be better by now?

    (Adapted from The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)

Further questions

Further questions

If you have an urgent query in relation to referrals, you can call 01 249 3635 to reach our Referral and Assessment Service between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Outside of these hours, please call 01 249 3200.

If you have more questions that don’t relate to a referral, you can call us on 01 249 3200.

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