Mental health campaigners travel to London to lobby Westminster for urgent release of funding for services
PSYCHIATRISTS and mental health charities from Northern Ireland are travelling to London today to lobby Westminster MPs on the need for urgent funding to improve the "dire state" of services for people at risk of suicide.
Together for You, a group made up of campaigners and experts, say more people have taken their own lives since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 - more than 4,400 suicides have been recorded - than during the Troubles.
A delegation led by Action Mental Health say the crisis is being exacerbated by the collapse of power-sharing and is calling for £50 million health funding pledged as part of a £1 billion DUP/Tory deal last year to be immediately released.
The group is calling for the creation of a regional trauma service to be immediately set up to tackle the 'mental health legacy' of the Troubles.
David Babington, chief executive of Action Mental Health, said they had decided to go to London in a bid to make politicians "sit up and notice".
"The rest of the UK needs to understand that while we in Northern Ireland have endured over a year with no functioning government, our health service is being starved of funding and decision making, and we are seeing a deeply worrying rate of suicide," he said.
"It's hard to believe that more people have now died through suicide than were killed in the Troubles, but the statistic is very real and so is the suffering taking place here. This cannot be allowed to continue. Where is the duty of care to the people of Northern Ireland? Moreover, where is the £50 Million in extra funding for mental health which was promised nearly a year ago?"
The north has a 25 per cent higher prevalence of mental health conditions than in England - with one in five adults affected at any one time.
The group is calling for the appointment of a 'mental health champion' to work across government in Northern Ireland.