SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has deemed a report into Mental Health services by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) a catalogue of chaos.
The report has outlined significant funding concerns which could risk the implementation of the long awaited Mental Health Strategy 2021-2031 including key elements such as the Protect Life 2, suicide prevention strategy.
Despite the prevalence of mental ill health in the North, it remains the lowest funded jurisdiction across the UK.
Said the Foyle MLA: “The NIAO report paints a picture of chaos for mental health services. Reviewing mental health statistics is never easy but this report is harrowing.
“It’s estimated that mental health problems cost the NI economy £3.4 billion a year. That’s staggering considering the allocation for mental health represents just 5.7% of the overall health and social and health care trust budget.
“Not resourcing these services will result in colossal costs for society, for the health service and for most importantly people. The failure to adequately fund services in the face of such a treacherous outlook is pure insanity.
“The North is caught in a vicious cycle of ever-increasing demand for services and a steady depletion of resources.
“Mental health services are being pummelled from all sides; the inability to allocate the necessary funding within the department has been compounded by the cuts in primary school counselling provision and huge losses from European funding.
“In my own constituency of Foyle, among the most deprived areas in the North, one organisation which supports people battling with poor mental health and addiction issues has lost five members of staff.
“The consequences have been utterly devastating for service-users. Lifelines like these are being derailed on a weekly basis, deepening the gap in mental health services.
“I’ve witnessed first-hand the repercussions of those atrocious cuts. My office is dealing with a surge in the number of people seeking help for serious mental health issues.
“In the absence of support, very vulnerable individuals are self-medicating and slipping further and further into addiction.
“It is horrific to see people struggling and families shattered because they’ve not been afforded access to timely or appropriate support.
“In just two years, the mental health waiting lists have grown by 3,000 patients. That’s 16,000 people in total waiting to access the help they desperately need and that help isn’t readily available.
“That massive increase was forewarned, action couldn’t be taken in the absence of an executive and now the system runs the risk of collapse.
“The North is in the eye of the storm- the mental health crisis is here and it’s escalating.
“The cost of failing to act now doesn’t bear thinking about,” added Mr Durkan.Tags: