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Mental ill-health rate in N Ireland 25% higher than England, charity warns

A mental health champion is to be appointed amid official concern about the ‘potentially catastrophic’ toll caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Northern Ireland’s rate of mental ill-health is 25% higher than England’s, charity chief Karen Collins warned (Aware NI/PA)

Northern Ireland’s rate of mental ill-health is 25% higher than England’s, charity chief Karen Collins warned (Aware NI/PA)

Northern Ireland’s rate of mental ill-health is 25% higher than England’s, charity chief Karen Collins warned (Aware NI/PA)

Northern Ireland’s rate of mental ill-health was 25% higher than England’s even before coronavirus, a charity chief has warned.

A mental health champion is to be appointed amid official concern about the “potentially catastrophic” toll caused by the pandemic.

The legacy of years of violence during the Troubles and socio-economic factors like deprivation were largely responsible, Karen Collins from Aware NI said.

She said: “Depression is currently the leading cause of disability worldwide and, at this time, one in nine people in Northern Ireland are living with a diagnosis of depression.

Mental health is a key area to consider during this period of isolation and must be paramount to the recovery strategy when we emerge from coronavirusKaren Collins, Aware NI

“Mental health is a key area to consider during this period of isolation and must be paramount to the recovery strategy when we emerge from coronavirus.”

Northern Ireland’s higher suicide rate compared with the rest of the UK is well-documented.

The charity’s chief executive welcomed the renewed focus on mental well-being but added it was vital the Stormont commitments were properly resourced.

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She said those with the health problems contributed less effectively to work and found it harder to form relationships.

“All of these are well-evidenced by-products of mental ill health. Depression is the biggest cause of workplace absence.”

The new role announced by the Department of Health would be to champion and enhance mental health in all aspects of public life.

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Health minister Robin Swann said Covid-19 has taken a ‘massive toll’ on everyone (Liam McBurney/PA)

Health minister Robin Swann said Covid-19 has taken a ‘massive toll’ on everyone (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Health minister Robin Swann said Covid-19 has taken a ‘massive toll’ on everyone (Liam McBurney/PA)

Health minister Robin Swann said it would be expected the post-holder would be a public advocate for mental health and challenge official decisions and policies.

The post could cost £300,000 to 500,000 a year, depending how many support staff were needed and which organisation they were placed in.

Earlier this week, Mr Swann said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a massive physical toll on us all.

“We must not, however, lose sight of the potentially catastrophic impact it will have on emotional well-being and mental health.

“If we do not take action now to address this, it will impact on our community both in the short and the medium term.”


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