Northern Ireland news

Young campaigners to meet minister to demand mental health reform

Chair of Belfast Youth Forum John Jo McGrady

YOUNG campaigners are meeting Health Minister Robin Swann today to call for urgent action to create a mental health strategy for Northern Ireland.

Members of the Elephant in the Room (EITR) campaign group are appearing before the Executive Work Group on Mental Wellbeing, Resilience and Suicide Prevention to demand wide-ranging mental health reform.

In 2017 the group, which was by Belfast City Council Youth Forum and the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, produced a research report giving the Executive a range of practical actions to help young people.

They include a youth-led, government-backed mental health campaign, challenging the culture of silence and negative stigma and a compulsory curriculum programme for all schools and colleges on mental health and wellbeing.

They also want government to work with young people to develop a new and positive language around mental health, with a `mental health dictionary' as part of the dedicated curriculum programme and a website "for young people designed by young people" to provide mental health information, support and raise awareness and challenge stigma.

Niamh Mallaghan, member of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum Executive Committee, said: "This campaign gives young people the opportunity to make their voices heard at the highest level to make the changes needed to end the misery of poor mental health, self-harm and suicide."

Chair of Belfast Youth Forum John Jo McGrady says has seen many of his close friends suffer from the effects of poor mental health and the lack of support to deal with the problem.

"The time for change is now. Mental health has been overlooked for too long. This meeting gives us a genuine opportunity to meet with the full Executive with all departments represented to give practical and effective solutions," he said.

Alliance Party education spokesman Chris Lyttle, who helped facilitate the meeting, said he supports the need for the Northern Ireland Executive to "prioritise and deliver improved mental health and wellbeing provision for our society".

"I asked the health minister to meet with young people from the Elephant In The Room campaign and to allocate officials and resources at his disposal to support the delivery of the substantive proposals made by this youth-led campaign."

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