Nine leading charities call on the next NI Executive to have fair and equal policies for those living with mental ill-health
back row left to right - Fiona Scullion, MindWise, Siobhan Doherty, Aware NI; Dave Murphy, Relate NI, Siobhan McHaffie, Cruse Bereavement Care; Helena Bracken, Nexus NI;
Nine leading charities have come together to call on all the political parties to commit to ring fencing funding for mental health, and providing better leadership on the way forward in the post Bamford era. The charities, which include Action Mental Health; Aware NI; CAUSE; Cruse; MindWise; Nexus NI; Praxis Care; RelateNI and The Rainbow Project have supported the findings of the recent ‘Regress, React, Resolve?’ report produced by Queens University calling for the appointment of a Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland. Last week the Royal College of Psychiatrists also called on the Executive to support the call for a Champion.
In 2011 the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety deemed mental health to be one of the four most significant causes of ill health and disability in Northern Ireland along with cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer (Service Framework for Mental Health and Wellbeing, 2011). Despite this however, over the last six years spending on mental health services has shown a decline in spending of 26% while spending on primary care services has shown an increase of 136% (Queens University Belfast Report, 2015).
The impact of this disparity in funding is stark, as David Babington, Chief Executive of Action Mental Health, explains “the cutbacks to already underfunded mental health facilities has devastated those who deeply rely on them to receive professional help and who are subsequently having to wait longer to receive care due to lack of government funding and support.
Representatives from nine leading mental health charities have come to Stormont today because we desperately need a functioning government to work for mental health and help organisations like ours to provide services for people across the region.”
Together, these nine organisations have identified five key commitments for the next government which, if implemented, would dramatically improve the lives of those living with mental ill-health and create a fairer and more equal funding platform for mental health services. These include:
Funding: Ensure sufficient funding is made available for mental health in Northern Ireland to achieve the service improvements envisaged by the Bamford Review AND for Mental Health to be ring-fenced from any future budget cuts.
Leadership: Ensure a regional working group is set up to examine the extent and impact of mental health service fragmentation, including variations in access to mental health provision between urban/rural areas with the aim of developing greater integration / continuity
Mental Health Champion: Establish an authoritative and independent Champion for Mental Health, to promote the rights and interests of people with mental health problems and ensure services continue to be developed effectively to meet the needs of service users / carers
Stigma: Ensure a multi-agency objective to reduce the stigma associated with mental ill-health and promotion of positive mental health as a key component of the public health agenda, with a particular focus / resource placed in education programmes for schools
Recovery Led, Person-Centred Services: Commissioners of mental health services and professional staff in all sectors should continue to strive to promote a recovery led, person-centred (service user involvement) and relationship-based approach to service delivery.
Without these commitments met, mental health service provision falls short of the Bamford Vision for future service delivery, falls short of the expectations of voluntary and community organisations providing support, and ultimately falls short of those currently suffering from mental ill-health in Northern Ireland, an estimated 20% of the population (Chief Medical Officer, 2010).
Chief Medical Officer (2010) Your Health Matters. The Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland 2010, Belfast: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2011) Service Framework for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Belfast: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
Queens University Belfast (2015) Regress?, React?, Resolve? An evaluation of mental health service provision in Northern Ireland, Belfast: Report by Queens University Belfast for Action Mental Health.