Mental Health Care in NI
The #123GP campaign findings that 26 GP practices have stopped offering in house counselling services to their patients elicited strong reactions within the sector. The campaign also drew attention to Northern Ireland Assembly research into the patchy access to talking therapies across NI.
The NI Department of Health’s health survey for 2020-2021 shows a significant increase in rates of mental health problems here, up from 19% in 2019/20 to 27% in 2020/21. The rise among women was steeper than among men. One-third of people in the most deprived areas had high GHQ12 (General Health Questionnaire) scores compared with a quarter in the least deprived areas.
Meanwhile, local people sounded the alarm over longstanding unmet mental health needs in North Belfast. Following the tragic death of a 39-year-old woman whilst waiting for an ambulance, the BBC highlighted the lack of any independent health watchdog in NI.
Wider research found that people who had suffered more severe cases of Covid-19 were at higher risk of mental health impacts like depression and anxiety. UK-wide research into access to CAMHS services revealed huge gaps between need and availability for under-18s, with many who seek help turned away as a result. The Guardian shone a spotlight on the £2billion / year in public funds paid for private mental health services due to shortfalls in NHS service availability – despite ongoing concerns around safety and quality of care in the private sector. For its part the Department of Health published statistics on people who presented to services in the year ending 31 March 2021 for help related to drug or alcohol misuse.
Elsewhere, the Council of Europe published a report of “good practices” for member states, aimed at promoting voluntary measures in the provision of mental health treatment.