- 28 Oct 20
Highfield Healthcare has a long-established history of providing an exceptional level of care for people with mental health issues. Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Leena Naughton (pictured, left) and Clinical Nurse Manager Laura Collins (pictured, right) tell us about Highfield’s new day hospital, and how they’ve adapted their services during Covid-19.
With a focus on empowering people to live mentally healthy lives, Highfield Healthcare has continued to grow and develop its services since first opening its doors in 1825. Located in Whitehall in Dublin, and currently run by the sixth generation of the Eustace family, Highfield is highly regarded for its acute and specialist mental health services.
Following the success of their first acute day hospital service, Highfield opened their second day hospital in March 2020 – a recovery-orientated service which offers people a range of supports and treatment options, to meet the individual needs of each person.
The therapeutic programme at the day hospital consists of many multidisciplinary-led sessions, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Occupational Therapy, Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP), health promotion and more.
Over the years, Laura Collins, the Clinical Nurse Manager at the new day hospital, has seen a positive shift in people’s attitudes towards mental health in Ireland.
“What has helped is the media coverage, and the sports and pop stars coming out and sharing their own experiences – people like Bressie,” says Collins. “As part of our psychoeducation sessions in the day hospital, we explore that stigma. Through the group therapy programme here, people can connect with people their own age, who have similar experiences – and that really helps to normalise what they’re going through.
“People can also have an internal stigma around what they’re experiencing,” she adds. “That’s something we explore on a one-to-one basis. We encourage people to show themselves compassion, and learn about what they’re going through. It’s important that they know that it’s a biological thing they’re going through, and their experience is valid.”
An emphasis on recovery is at the heart of Highfield’s approach.
“Highfield really looks at working collaboratively with individuals, to develop a care plan that really fits their own needs,” Collins explains. “All the services are based upon that recovery model.”
Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Leena Naughton also emphasises the importance of a holistic approach.
“It’s not just about treating the illness – it’s about instilling confidence in people, so they know they are part of the community, and they have equal rights to lead quality lives,” Dr Naughton says. “In the day hospital, we’re teaching young people how to live with their illness, in a positive way.”
Of course, shortly after the opening of the new Day Hospital, Highfield was faced with the challenges of Covid-19 in Ireland. As Dr Naughton notes, due to the stress, isolation and disruption of the pandemic, “People who have had mental health issues are finding it even tougher, and some people have developed new issues.”
“With the inability to socialise, patients with anxiety problems – who were avoiding socialising before Covid-19 ever came – have worsened,” she explains. “Through the treatment, we would have encouraged them to socialise more, but because of Covid-19, they now have a reason not to go out.
“We have noticed that a lot of substance misuse has increased,” she adds. “People are at home, and bored. They’re drinking more and they’re using cannabis more. Another disorder that has really worsened is OCD. For people with fear of contamination, we’ve found that Covid-19 has deepened their condition and their fears.”
To meet the various challenges of the pandemic, Highfield moved quickly to adapt their services.
“Teletherapy was developed to enable the teams to continue delivering interventions and providing support to those who needed it,” Laura explains. “Over a short space of time, the entire therapeutic programme in the day hospital migrated to an online platform – with assessments, group therapy and one-to-one work all being facilitated using Zoom and telephone.”
“In our programme, the medium of delivering care has changed, but the groups and interventions have still remained the same, to a certain extent,” she adds. “One of the programmes that we deliver is called Decider Skills. It’s based on CBT and DBT-based skills, and it enables people to manage stress, regulate emotions and increase mindfulness. That’s a huge help, considering that people are trying to manage a huge, totally unexpected event in their lives.”