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Making Parity a Reality

A Review of Mental Health Policies in Northern Ireland

By Professor Siobhan O’ Neill, Professor Deirdre Heenan and Dr Jennifer Betts. Supported by Action Mental Health.

As Ulster University launches a new review of Northern Ireland’s mental health policies, it has been revealed that waiting lists for services in Northern Ireland are now 24 times greater than in England and Wales combined.

Brand new figures set out in the policy review by Ulster University ‘Make Parity a Reality’ showed that as of March 2019 approximately 120,000 people of all ages in Northern Ireland were waiting over a year for access to health services.

The UU policy review, being launched in conjunction with Action Mental Health, is a call to action for a ten year mental health strategy in Northern Ireland – the only UK region without one. It comes in the face of rising suicide rates and a system delivered in a fragmented and piecemeal manner.

The figures, obtained by the University, cast a damning light on health services here in Northern Ireland in comparison to similar statistics for England and Wales combined, where approximately only 5000 people were waiting for over 12 months.

‘Make Parity a Reality’ will be unveiled at Stormont on Friday, June 21, at an event featuring special guest, Gary Lightbody of internationally renowned and multi-award winning rock band, Snow Patrol.

Last November the Co Down born singer, who has suffered from depression in the past, hit out at politicians over the impact on mental health services of the absence of a functioning devolved government at Stormont.

Make Parity a Reality calls for a more holistic approach to health services, with a greater focus on prevention and early intervention to reduce the long term impact for people experiencing mental health problems and their families, and to reduce the costs for the NHS and emergency services.

The review calls for Northern Ireland’s high waiting lists to be presented in relation to their impact on mental health and for a new emphasis on creating mentally healthy communities. Urging politicians and policy makers for greater innovation within Northern Ireland’s devolved administration, the review calls for strategic leadership roles for people with lived experience of mental ill-health.

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