It follows the publication of the latest Mental Health Strategy 2021-31 delivery plan in which the Health Permanent Secretary Peter May laments that ‘tough decisions’ had to be made.
£5.5 million has been allocated for this year’s plan aimed at alleviating current services pressures.
Said the Foyle MLA: “It is unconscionable that the delivery of a Mental Health Strategy and key elements such as the Protect Life 2 suicide prevention strategy has faced this situation not once but twice.
“This long awaited and indeed championed strategy was welcomed by every political party who hailed it as a necessity to narrow the parity gap between mental and physical health.
“Yet it’s hit continued stumbling blocks due to Stormont’s collapse in 2017 and again in 2022, presided over by the North’s two biggest parties.
“Meanwhile, vulnerable people are waiting longer on ever growing lists to access adequate support.
“The prevalence of mental ill health remains the highest across the UK and we remain the lowest funded jurisdiction.
“It’s hugely frustrating that efforts to improve regional mental health services are being blocked at every step.
“Given that mental health problems cost the NI economy £3.4 billion a year, the £5.5million allocated to the mental health delivery plan for 2023/23 is a drop in the ocean.
“It’s effectively a sticking plaster for the gaping wound of the North’s mental health crisis.
“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 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.
“While the DUP squabbles and shifts goalposts over the terms of the NI protocol, lives are being lost.”