Northern Lens: Speaking out on #MentalHealthWeek

This week is Mental Health Week. Did you know that one in five of us have a mental health issue? Did you also know that Northern Ireland has consistently incurred significantly higher anti-depressant prescribing costs per head as compared to the rest of the UK?

These are just some facts shared by BBC NI’s Health Correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly via Twitter yesterday, on Mental Health Day.

Last Saturday, dozens of people – as part of a March for Life – walked the streets of Belfast city centre to help raise awareness of issues around suicide and to support prevention. Figures show that 318 local people took their own lives in 2015 – the highest total since records began in 1970.

Lacking appropriate mental health services doesn’t just affect our health services. In September a judge warned Derry-Londonderry Magistrates’ Court that our criminal justice system is in danger of crumbling under the weight of cases relating to mental health issues. The mental health of the nation, Barney McElholm said, was “getting worse and worse”.

“Vital Signs” research carried out by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland has revealed that communities here are struggling to cope with a range of mental health issues due to a lack of support and interventions. Conflict related trauma, access to perinatal mental health support, and concerns about high rates of self-harm and suicide, are just some issues raised.

Without a Northern Ireland Executive this situation is only expected to deteriorate further. Leading charities including Action Mental Health, Aware Defeat Depression and Nexus have formed the Together for You partnership, calling for the release of £50m for mental health services – funding agreed between the DUP and Conservative government after June’s snap general election – which is yet to be authorised by parliament in Westminster.

Politicians at Stormont mightn’t have agreed on much this year, but if their Twitter postings yesterday were anything to go by then we know there’s at least one cause they could rally behind. Now we need them to act.

About Connor Daly

Connor is Editor of Northern Slant. His interests include politics, human rights, current affairs and communications.


Also published on Medium.