More must be done to solve mental health issues, says PUP's Hutchinson
Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) leader Billy Hutchinson has criticised the lack of investment to support those with mental health problems in Northern Ireland.
Addressing his party's annual conference in Co Antrim on Saturday, the PUP leader also called for an end to the stigma surrounding mental health.
Mr Hutchinson told delegates that the low spending on mental health is unacceptable and he believes those in office are not prioritising the issue.
He said: "Northern Ireland spends less than half of what is spent in England on supporting mental health problems and learning disabilities, despite the fact that there are 25% more cases of mental health problems in Northern Ireland than in England. We should also remember that we have come out of a conflict. Of course, with the current inactivity at Stormont, this issue will not be addressed any time soon.
"Mental health must be discussed, understood and tackled head-on. It must be talked about in our schools, our workplaces and in our community centres. It is no source of shame or of weakness to have battled depression or to ask for help."
The PUP will mark its 40th anniversary next year, although its leader said that four decades on, the same problems remain.
"The founders had an understanding and a frustration with unionism in relation to working-class communities and believed that it was important to represent those interests, as 'big households unionism' was not alleviating disadvantage, marginalisation, rights or the changing employment opportunities with the collapse of shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries," Mr Hutchinson said.
"The ruling elites have changed, but we still suffer from similar problems and our people still suffer from the consequences of those who run the country. The difference that exists is that this party gave people the opportunity to resolve their issues through our activists."