People with mental health problems in Northern Ireland believe they are not receiving the help they need in a crisis, a new report has revealed.
The research highlighted problems throughout the mental health care system and has prompted calls for the Health Minister Edwin Poots to introduce changes immediately.
The new report indicated that 91% of those polled – which included carers as well as those experiencing mental health problems – believe they simply do not receive adequate information on where to go when in crisis.
It also highlighted major concerns over waiting times for treatment by GPs and emergency departments.
The groups involved in the research have called on the minister, Edwin Poots, to make improvements as quickly as possible.
The report, – Time to Listen; Time to Act: Holding Mental Health Services To Account – involved polling around 90 people with experience of the services.
Just over half –51% – reported high levels of dissatisfaction with the care they receive, and 97% did not feel involved in decisions about how mental health services are run.
Worryingly, 73% of those prescribed medication by their GP claimed they were not offered any counselling – despite a significant number indicating that they wanted it.
The groups have now launched a Mental Health Rights Campaign to make simple improvements to services.
The research also identified that waiting times, in both A&E and GP settings, are a highly significant issue. Of the patients and carers questioned:
Grace Cassidy, a member of Belfast Mental Health Rights Group, whose son attempted to take his own life two weeks after being discharged from hospital, said: "We know that people are going to A&E in mental health crisis to seek help. We need to make sure that they get the help."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said current expenditure on mental health services is £240m per year.
"Further reform will require funding. That is difficult to find in the current economic climate and given the range of pressures across the entire health and social care system," she said.
A poll of those experiencing mental health problems and carers found that:
73% of those prescribed medication by their GP claimed they were not offered any counselling despite a significant number indicating that they wished to have access to the service.
91% of people believe they do not receive adequate information on where to go when in a crisis.