Social Democratic and Labour Party health spokesperson Cara Hunter has welcomed Health Minister Robin Swann’s new 10-year Mental Health Strategy.
The East Derry MLA has been a long-time campaigner for greater awareness and support for mental health issues.
Ms Hunter said the plans to begin the reform of Northern Ireland’s mental health services would make a huge difference for those requiring treatment and called on the Department of Health and Mr Swann to follow through on their commitments.
However, she noted that the funding was not yet in place, with the Minister saying an investment of £1.2bn would be needed over the next 10 years.
“The funding must be guaranteed to allow a complete overhaul of the way we handle this issue, you cannot put a price on good mental health.
“It has been clear for some time that the way our health services deal with mental health is nowhere near good enough. Too many people have been unable to access treatment when they need it, while others languish on waiting lists for months and years in the hope of being able to speak to someone.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, with more and more people suffering from mental health issues as a result of the upheaval in their lives. I hope today’s announcement will be followed by tangible results, which will promote good mental health for everyone, while providing services and facilities for those who are struggling.”
Ms Hunter also raised the issue of mental health support in rural areas with the Minister.
“There is a need to bring services closer to the people who require them in rural areas like East Derry. I welcome a commitment from Mr Swann around the creation of mental health hubs to enable people to access support when they need it.
“The Minister’s commitment to make services more local will be of huge benefit to rural communities and farmers in particular. Accessibility is key to good mental well-being and I am happy the Minister has noted this and included it in his strategy.”