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Editor's Viewpoint

Our mental health crisis is a priority



Professor Siobhan O'Neill

Professor Siobhan O'Neill

Professor Siobhan O'Neill

In simple economic terms, it’s better to spend more on better quality in the first place than have to paper over the cracks for years later.

The finance drains away without you even realising it.

And even papering those cracks doesn’t get rid of the fact that the crack remains there underneath, ready to open again, and ready for falling into.

And taking a look at the worrying state of mental health services, that money is draining away £3.6 billion every year from the economy.

The figures are starkly laid out by Professor Siobhan O’Neill today. She has written to politicians, again, to tell them.

She has been appointed as Mental Health Champion. That was a sign that Stormont was beginning to take the situation seriously.

But surely the time has now come where the concerns she continually raises begin to be acted on rather than listened to, noted down, agreed with, only to go through the whole process again a few weeks later.

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Today, once more, Professor O’Neill is appealing for support amidst “unprecedented demand for mental health services and huge pressure on staff.”

“There is evidence of an increase in the proportions of people reporting suicidal thoughts,” she says.

“Mental illness is a preventable and treatable cause of death and suffering; and it is unacceptable that so many people in Northern Ireland are unable to access treatments and services.

“For too long we’ve been firefighting by supporting people in crisis, helping people only when their mental health has deteriorated to the point where they are seriously ill, and pouring resources into clinical services which are unable to meet demand.”

A fire is raging, and a few buckets of water thrown in the general direction will do little to quench it. It needs the full blown emergency services team, much like the rest of the health service.

Much of the ground work had been done.

There is, sitting waiting, a full 10-year mental health strategy.

Northern Ireland, and particularly those in need, cannot wait any longer. There is little point in asking the experts what needs to be done, then failing to do it.

The fire engine has been called, the hoses are primed and ready.

All we need now is for someone to turn on the supply and let the money flow into the system, fixing it properly rather than patting it down with a wet sponge.

If we don’t, it won’t feel any better in the morning.

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