Mental Health in Northern Ireland needs a Champion - it’s time to act!

26 Oct 2016

We will all know and/or care for a friend or family member who has suffered from poor mental health and the stigma surrounding it. Ensuring that Mental Health is not forgotten is in all our interests.

The Issue

Northern Ireland is reported to have a 25% higher overall prevalence of mental health problems than England (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2014). People with a diagnosed mental health condition are shown to be at a higher risk of attempting and completing suicide, with more than 90% of suicides and suicide attempts having been found to be associated with mental ill health (Mental Health Foundation). The number of suicides in Northern Ireland is higher than the rest of the UK, with over 260 deaths in 2014, rising to 318 deaths in 2015 (NISRA, 2015). This is an extremely worrying trend. 

Despite these shocking statistics, mental health is often forgotten about at policy level and when it comes to the funding of services.  Hence its nickname ‘The Cinderella Service’.  

A recent study by Queen’s University Belfast on Mental Health Service provision in Northern Ireland highlighted a number of areas where “fresh thinking and planning are required” including funding restraints for mental health services (relative to physical health); fragmentation of services across Northern Ireland (leading to inconsistent service provision from one area to another); gaps in services for young people; and finally a lack of strong leadership to drive improvements in mental health services. 

The solution

Following a Mental Health Summit held in February 2016 (which was attended by over 300 people with mental health problems, their carers and organisations who offer support), the appointment of a Mental Health Champion was identified as a key action which could be taken forward by government to make a real difference to improve the lives of service users, carers and future generations across the region.  At present there is a clear disconnect between people with lived experience, and decision makers within mental health policy. People’s voices need to be heard! Service users want to feel represented and know that someone is in their corner, to help battle stigma and influence decisions. Government needs help too, and we believe that a Champion would provide mental health (in Northern Ireland) with a focal point…an accessible advocate who will take action and ensure collaboration with everyone with an interest in mental health and wellbeing in Northern Ireland.   

Therefore we propose the appointment of a Mental Health Champion who will be:

 “An impartial professional with the track record and drive to radically alter the mental health and wellbeing of our people and communities.” (Quote from NI Assembly Debate 2016).

Together For You acknowledge there will be a resource implication but this will be much less than that required for a Commissioner role. In fact we anticipate that any costs will be more than offset by helping to support all Government Departments to deliver on commitments made to mental health and wellbeing in the draft Programme for Government Framework.

Be part of the solution

We will all know and/or care for a friend or family member who has suffered from poor mental health and the stigma surrounding it.  Ensuring that Mental Health is not forgotten is in all our interests.

Please help us fight for a Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland by supporting and signing this petition:

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