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Minister's mindless criticism of anti-stress plans

I was saddened to read of the recent criticisms made by the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson regarding the workshops on mindfulness based stress reduction offered to Northern Health Trust staff.

What was particularly striking was that Mr Wilson felt it reasonable to criticise the Trust for facilitating a workshop that was offered at no cost by Paul Haller, while neglecting to find out more about what exactly it was that he was criticising. I remain unclear of the evidence upon which Mr Wilson's criticisms are based.

As a social worker with over 15 years experience in mental health services and who has benefited from Mr Haller's training, I can attest to its value in helping mental health professionals cope more effectively with stresses that arise in an inherently stressful job.

Mr Haller's mindfulness based approach is underpinned by robust empirical evidence and there is also evidence that if mental health professionals are not provided with effective support in dealing with the emotional stresses from their work, it is mental health patients who suffer - either due to increased rates of stress-related sickness amongst staff or because front-line practitioners eventually 'burn-out'. It would be grimly ironic if those tasked with the care of the mental health needs of the population were to prove incapable of attending to the work-related mental health needs of their own front-line practitioners.

In my view, the Northern Trust is to be applauded in taking the initiative in this instance.

JOHN BOYLE

Newcastle, Co Down

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