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UK urged to provide more funding for mental health services in Northern Ireland

Published 08/09/2015

Ulster University professor Dr Deirdre Heenan co-chaired the Heenan-Anderson Commission
Ulster University professor Dr Deirdre Heenan co-chaired the Heenan-Anderson Commission

The UK Government needs to provide more money for mental health services in post-conflict Northern Ireland, a Labour-backed commission has said.

The 30-year Troubles left a legacy of trauma spanning generations - requiring a world-class and universal system to deal with i t, the Heenan-Anderson Commission said. The review was ordered before the General Election by Labour to find ways of tackling poverty in Northern Ireland.

Creating a comprehensive mental trauma service was part of last year's Stormont House Agreement between political parties in Northern Ireland. Implementation of the deal has been cast into doubt since Sinn Fein opposed welfare changes earlier this year and fresh political talks start today.

The Commission said: "The legacy of the Troubles, including intergenerational trauma, means that Northern Ireland needs a world-class universal mental health system.

"This is one area where we believe that the UK Government should consider providing additional hypothecated funding to ensure that the Executive can make rapid progress in this area."

The Commission was co-chaired by Ulster University professor Deirdre Heenan and businessman Colin Anderson, supported by a panel of experts from academia, the trade union movement, trade bodies, the voluntary and community sector, and business.

They consulted politicians, political parties, public bodies and community and voluntary organisations, as well as inviting submissions from a wide range of interested and impacted parties.

One of their recommendations included prioritising mental well-being.

"There are substantial economic and social benefits not only from providing timely and efficacious treatments for mental disorders, but also from investing in people as potential parents and producing a social environment conducive to positive mental health and positive parenting."

This will include the integration of better understanding of mental health issues and parenting into school teaching.

Northern Ireland's largest victims group, the WAVE Trauma Centre, has said injured people lacked access to emotional support, counselling, psychological treatment of trauma symptoms, family support, and care for carers. Problems such as drug and alcohol misuse and weight management issues have largely gone unaddressed.

Estimates of numbers physically injured range from 8,383 to 100,000.

The Heenan-Anderson report made 20 recommendations including developing a long-term vision for Northern Ireland to 2050.

Others included:

:: Refocusing joint working between the Westminster Government and the Northern Ireland ministerial Executive.

:: Creating a leadership academy.

:: Building a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy.

Ivan Lewis, shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, said: "A radical agenda is needed to prevent anyone being left behind in Northern Ireland, which remains a society emerging from conflict.

"At this very challenging time of constant crisis for political stability in Northern Ireland, it is vital to remember the day to day difficulties of the poorest in society."

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