RESIDENTS of the Owenacurra Centre in Midleton, which offers residential care for people with significant mental health challenges, have written to the three leaders in Government, calling on them to support their mental health and right to live in their own community.
The letter, addressed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin; Tánaiste Leo Varadkar; and Eamon Ryan, the environment minister, calls for the decision to close the Owenacurra Centre to be reversed. Residents’ family members Maureen O’Sullivan and Mary Hurley met Mr Ryan in Cork this week to hand over the letter.
Green Party councillor Liam Quaide, who has long advocated for the centre to remain open, thanked the minister for giving both family members time to “highlight the need to reverse the closure of this invaluable service”.
“Maureen presented Eamon with a letter from residents, addressed also to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, urging them to take on in full the Oireachtas health committee recommendation,” said Mr Quaide.
In the letter, seen by The Echo, residents described the centre as their home, with some having lived there for over 30 years.
“All of us have been through extremely difficult times in life due to mental illness. Mental illness is destructive — it destroys careers, ruins families, causes depression, and often ends in suicide,” the residents wrote.
“When we are down, we feel like nobody loves us, that we are all alone in the world.
“For most people, the saying ‘love makes the world go round’ is something that makes them happy — when mental illness robs you of love, life sometimes loses its meaning and value. We are often shunned by society because, in some quarters, mental illness is seen as shameful. Unlike a physical illness, mental illness can be described as ‘a silent cross’.
“Owenacurra in Midleton is a unique centre. It provides us with a safe place where our mental health, and not our illness, is prioritised. It gives us hope because we are surrounded by people with similar experiences.
“Mental illness steals away human companionship, so people who are not well are all alone. Owenacurra completely reverses that. We see other people five times a day: at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. We also have four nurses looking after us during the day and two by night.”
They have described the decision to close the Owenacurra Centre as “devastating” and asked the Government leaders to step in.
It comes as the joint committee on health recently wrote to Mary Butler, the junior minister for mental health, to express concern that the Owenacurra Centre is to be closed.
The committee called on Ms Butler to reverse the decision as a matter of urgency, as it is “in contravention of the Sharing the Vision policy, which seeks to locate mental health services within communities”.