Belfast Telegraph

Card will be a lifeline to suicidal say families

by Natalie Irvine

Bereaved families of suicide victims have welcomed the news that a ‘lifeline’ appointment card system has been adopted by the Belfast Health Trust — almost 11 months after it was officially introduced into all health trusts by the Health Minister, Micheal McGimpsey.

Last week, (Wednesday, December 1), Belfast Health Trust committed to using the Card Before You Leave scheme (CYBL), designed to ensure mental health patients feel tied into services at their most vulnerable time.

The parents of 19-year-old Christopher Ferrin, who died last August, have spoken of their relief at the Trust’s announcement. Chistopher took his own life days after he had left the Mater hospital, devastated by waiting eight hours without being able to speak to a doctor about his suicidal thoughts.

Christopher’s mother Kate Ferrin said: “We welcome the commitment of the Belfast Health Trust to fully implement the Card Before You Leave system from the start of December.

“This is a big step forward and if it helps save just one life it will be a success. Families and communities have a voice in how public services are delivered and they need their voice to be heard.

“That said, this is only one step in the right direction and we will continue to campaign to highlight the ongoing need for quality mental health care.”

The CYBL scheme was officially launched by the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, on January 13 and was rolled out in all emergency departments across Northern Ireland.

However the roll-out within the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust was severely criticised by the Belfast Mental Health Rights Group (BMHRG), an organisation made up of mental health service users and family members bereaved by suicide, who believed it was not being implemented properly — the group previously campaigning for over four years for this implementation.

Stephanie Green, Local Development Worker who works with the BMHRG, has welcomed the news from the Trust. She said: “All of the Health Trusts have now moved towards the proper implementation of the Card Before You Leave appointment system and this is to be welcomed. The commitment and dedication of ordinary people and the support of the local media have combined to bring about an improvement in mental health service delivery that can make a significant difference to the lives of vulnerable individuals.

“However, CBYL is only one thing among many that could be done to ensure those furthest away from services receive the treatment they need. We need to build on this change. Many people who visit Emergency departments in mental health crisis will require proactive outreach. Our next task is to ensure this approach is taken by the Trusts.”

The appointment card system ensures patients at risk of suicide who visit an emergency department for mental health treatment receives a card with a definite appointment date and time, as well as details of support services available in the local area.

The scheme is based on the green card system in operation in Australia which provides a next day appointment for patients who have self harmed before they leave A&E. A study undertaken in 2003 concluded that 84 per cent of patients who received a green card attended their next appointment, compared with 40 per cent who received some other form of referral.

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