Northern Ireland news

'Up to politicians' to act over suicide and mental health crisis

Paula Bradshaw said the message is clear and must be heard by her colleagues. Picture by Hugh Russell

IT is "now up to politicians" to act quickly in response to a public campaign calling for suicide to be treated as "a public emergency".

Today an open letter is published in The Irish News and Belfast Telegraph asking health minister Robin Swann to "immediately" double the funding allocated to counselling services and ensure no one waits longer than 28 days for an appointment.

Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody, boxers Carl Frampton and Michael Conlan, former Ireland rugby international Tommy Bowe and Hillsborough campaigner Professor Philip Scraton are among the prominent figures who have lent their names to the campaign.

Belfast boxer Conlan came up with the idea after being personally affected by a series of suicides in the city in recent weeks.

He wrote the letter with help from lobby group Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR).

Alliance Party health spokeswoman Paula Bradshaw said the message is clear and must be heard by her colleagues.

She said the high profile names attached to the letter are not the only ones crying out for action.

"This morning I attended the launch of an Integrated Education Fund conference report entitled `Listening' where young people spoke about the many reasons why young people can find themselves affected by episodes of poor mental health.

"Bullying, not fitting in, bereavement and exam stress, among other reasons, were given for times when young people experience anxiety, depression and fear.

"I am heartened that young people - through many initiatives such as this - are finding their voice and speaking up to campaign for new and improved programmes and services to deal with the mental health crisis felt right across our community. It is now up to MLAs to ensure that the new Executive responds positively and with haste."

Within days of taking up his post, Mr Swann pledges mental health, substance misuse and suicide were among his department's "key priorities".

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