A new report suggests that there is a massive gulf between the level of mental health provision and public demand in Northern Ireland.
Mental Health Rights Campaign, which conducted the research, found that general practice is falling short of the standards of care that are expected.
The group is intimately involved in mental health care in Northern Ireland, being comprised of those affected by mental health issues, along with carers and families bereaved from suicide.
Mental Health Rights Campaign continually lobbies the authorities to deliver improvements in services, and this latest report will only strengthen the resolve of the group.
Dr John Kyle, a GP in east Belfast affiliated with the campaign, states that it is clear that a system which “makes people feel worthless and unimportant” is unacceptable.
The report, “Beyond a Spin of the Wheel”, includes a series of recommendations.
One of the key suggestions is the implementation of mandatory mental health training for GPs and other relevant staff.
While the campaigning group believes that there are multiple areas where change is required, there are several areas which require urgent and extensive transformation.
The report particularly names the following:
– Lack of mental health expertise among GPs
– Barriers to accessing appointments for mental health care
– The over prescription of medication to deal with mental health issues.
And the report also lists several other recommendations particularly intended to break down existing barriers to the provision of an outstanding mental health service.
These include mandatory mental health training for GPs and other relevant staff, a designated phone line for mental health appointments, a ‘red flag’ system on patients’ files to alert the receptionist that a caller has mental health issues and provision of double or longer appointments for people with mental health issues.
Mental health problems are now regarded as one of the most common forms of illness and disability.
They account for over 30% of “years lived with a disability”, and in the UK mental illness now accounts for a bigger share of the overall burden of disease, than any other health condition, including heart disease and cancer.
More than 20% of young people are suffering “significant mental health problems” by their 18th birthday.
17% of men and 32% of women aged 35-44 show signs of depression.
Meanwhile, the overall suicide rate in Northern Ireland is 9.7 per 100,000 and in recent years there has been an increasing trend, particularly in men under the age of 35 years.