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Hospitals treating five young self-harm patients every day

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 26/03/2016

Fearghal McKinney MLA
Fearghal McKinney MLA

Five young people are treated in hospital every day in Northern Ireland because they have self-harmed, it has been revealed.

Patients aged 18 and under were seen by A&E departments more than 1,600 times in the last year.

The number of self-harm incidents has risen by almost a quarter since 2012.

In the Belfast area alone, almost 600 cases of self-harm were recorded among young people in the space of 12 months.

The details were released by Health Minister Simon Hamilton after an Assembly question from SDLP MLA Fearghal McKinney.

It comes days after this newspaper reported on the alarming extent of depression among young people. Around 550 children aged under 16 were prescribed anti-depressants last year.

Mr McKinney said the Executive had failed to deal with the growing crisis surrounding mental health.

"Mental health should have been a priority in this mandate but it's clear from these figures on self-harm, and others on suicide, that young people in particular are being failed," he said.

"It is difficult to imagine the pain and suffering many young people are feeling that they would consider in any way harming themselves.

"An increasing trend in young people presenting at our hospitals in such distressing circumstances cannot be allowed to continue."

Mr Hamilton's answer states that, in the 12 months to last April, 1,679 people aged 18 and under were treated at A&E departments in Northern Ireland.

That is a 24% rise on the 2012/13 total of 1,353.

Mr Hamilton said the number of cases does not equate to the number of people, as a person may seek treatment more than once.

Mental health has long been a key challenge for Northern Ireland's health service.

Earlier this week the Belfast Telegraph reported that one in six of our population is battling depression.

In the 12 months to last April, a total of 299,946 people here were prescribed medication.

The figure includes around 550 children under the age of 16, and a further 5,500 teenagers aged between 16 and 19.

The number of children and teenagers given the drugs has increased year-on-year since 2012.

The Bamford Review examined how services for people with mental illness or learning disabilities could be improved.

It was launched in 2002 to evaluate the law, policy and provision of services for those with mental health needs.

It concluded in 2006 and led to a raft of reports on the best way forward.

Mr McKinney added: "As the demand for mental health provision grows, it is crucial that proper funding flows in the way that the Bamford review envisaged.

"We are in the wrong place in relation to mental health and that is underscored by the pressures facing community services such as Fasa which has now closed its doors when demand could not be greater."

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