Brown Calls For Better Mental Health Provision

Alliance councillor calls for urgent mental health provisions in the Downpatrick area.

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Alliance councillor calls for urgent mental health provisions in the Downpatrick area.

Rowallene DEA Alliance councillor Councillor Brown is calling for urgent action to be taken in tackling the mental health crisis in the Downpatrick area, asking Health Minister Robin Swann to release funding for a Wellbeing Hub in Downpatrick to support the local community. This follows on from Newry Mourne and Down Council announcing £10,000 in grants for community groups and backing the ‘Suicide Down to Zero” approach in a motion brought by Councillor Brown.

Cllr Brown said: “Recent research from the Northern Ireland Assembly Research and Information Service has shown that 20-25% more residents here experience mental health illnesses than in comparison to the rest of the UK.

“”There are also significantly higher levels of depression, anti-depressant prescription rates and incidents of self-harm, with 1 in 5 NI adults having a diagnosable mental health condition.”

However, the local mental health services are chronically underfunded and a lack of investment is only fuelling the extensive waiting lists.  

Cllr Patrick Brown, calling for better mental health provision.

The South Eastern Trust’s Primary Care Talking Therapy (PCTT) hubs (also known as Wellbeing Hubs) are an important part of the Transforming Your Care strategy and are expected to be introduced across Northern Ireland.

These have been planned for some time, but without a functioning Executive, all funding was frozen and the project halted. Now normal activity has resumed, it is hoped that these much required provisions can be implemented in the community.

Councillor Brown, Rowallane DEA added: “Mental health is an issue province-wide, but in Down the number of suicide deaths is second only to Belfast. Currently, the only Hub in the South Eastern Trust area is in Lisburn, and although it does give referrals to a community volunteer group in Ballynahinch, it doesn’t serve many people from the Downpatrick area. This is due to both the inaccessibility of the location and as the service is operating at maximum capacity.

“I would be very eager to see resources allocated for Wellbeing Hubs in the next budget of the Health Minister, and for this facility to open in the near future in Downpatrick. Additionally, I would like to see local groups, who have been serving the community, given the contracts to tender in the Hub.

“In addition to this, Newry, Mourne, and Down Council have backed a motion tabled by Councillor Brown which seeks to address the following four points:

  • Adopt a ‘suicide down to zero’ approach to tackling suicide prevention, meaning the Council strives towards having zero suicides across the District
  • Establishing a suicide prevention working group to plan how this target can be met
  • Setting up a small grants schemes for community/voluntary groups working in suicide prevention and mental health
  • Calling on the Department of health to implement the Protect Life 2 strategy, which would see much more funding for mental health services in NI

“I brought this motion to Council earlier this year because we are facing a mental health and suicide crisis. More people have died by suicide (over 4,500) since the Good Friday Agreement, than died as a result of the Troubles, yet it is something that we struggle to talk about, let alone address.

“The Department of Health spends around 7% of its annual budget on mental health service, something I hope will vastly increase as the new Health Minister aims to meet the commitments set out in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document.

“I welcome the news, however, that the Council have allocated £10,000 for grants for community/voluntary groups running projects to address the suicide and mental health crisis in the District. Whilst this is a modest sum compared to what is needed, it is a step in the right direction by the Alliance Party to ensure Council is doing its part to address the mental health crisis.”