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UUP's plea over mental health funding

By Noel McAdam

Published 24/02/2016

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt

Northern Ireland has higher records of poor mental health than Israel or Lebanon, the Ulster Unionist Party has warned.

Sufferers face "fundamental challenges" in receiving "the right type of care" because services have not kept pace with increased numbers suffering mental ill-health and related disorders, a new party document argued.

It called on the Government to release half of the £150 million ring-fenced for dealing with the legacy from the Troubles to tackle mental health issues - £75m over five years.

Next year will mark a decade since the Bamford review of mental health services demanded widespread changes, including new legislation to protect people unable to make decisions for themselves. The review was conducted by a team led by Professor David Bamford of Ulster University.

In the first of a series of detailed policy papers planned for the run-up to the Assembly election, the party said mental health was a key priority.

Party leader Mike Nesbitt said his interest in the issue goes back more than 20 years to when his wife Lynda Bryans suffered from clinical depression.

"It gave me an insight into how debilitating mental health problems can be for the individual and how it impacts on the wider family, friends and colleagues," he said.

"It also convinced me that people with mental health issues deserve to have their dignity respected in the same way as people enduring physical issues."

He said his period as one of the former four Commissioners for Victims and Survivors "made clear to me how deep-rooted mental health issues are in Northern Ireland".

It's estimated 28.5% of the population is suffering from mental health issues.

"Per capita, we have one of the worst records of poor mental health and wellbeing in the world - not just higher rates than England, Scotland and Wales, but also Israel and Lebanon," he said.

"It is a moot question whether Syria will now assume the unenviable position of the world's worst."

The party pledged delivery of the Bamford report on tackling mental health issues, primarily for the Department of Health, but across all Executive ministries.

This would include a shift from hospitals to community-based services and the development of specialist services for children and young people, older people, addicts and those in the criminal justice system. The party said the pace of implementing the Bamford report had been too slow, and uncertainty over funding of mental health meant "there has been no strategic planning of services".

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