Belfast Telegraph

'Lack of support' for mentally ill

More lives could be lost if suicidal mentally ill patients are not given greater support, it has been claimed.

Some health trusts are not providing people with a note of further appointments when they are discharged from hospital, the Belfast Mental Health Rights Group added. The Belfast trust is phoning patients with appointment offers instead.

The parents of a Belfast teenager who took his life this month said the health service needs to do more to protect vulnerable people. Christopher Ferrin, 19, had been referred to hospital for treatment after suffering from mental health problems.

Rights group spokeswoman Kathy Vella said: "By choosing to implement the system in a way that has been proven to be less effective these trusts are putting the lives of vulnerable individuals at risk."

The card before people leave the scheme allows all those at risk of suicide or self-harm who go to accident and emergency to receive an appointment card for assessment and receive details of other services available in their area.

Post-hospital discharge suicides reach their peak in the first one or two weeks after they are released and two thirds of deaths happen before the first follow-up appointment.

Ms Vella added: "It is extremely important patients are issued with an appointment card that details a date and time for their next appointment as this ensures that the most in need remain tied into services in the vulnerable post-discharge period."

The card before you leave scheme was launched by Health Minister Michael McGimpsey in January. It is based on a system being used in Australia which provides a next day appointment for patients who have self-harmed before they leave accident and emergency. Deprived communities experience almost double the rate of suicides of more affluent societies.

Mr Ferrin's parents, Kate and Alex, said he ran crying from A&E after an eight hour wait to see doctors days before he died.

Mrs Ferrin said: "I would like to ensure that any other child feeling that way is offered help as soon as possible. I tried everywhere for help, he tried everywhere, we are so angry that he was not offered any sort of help at all."

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