We’ve welcomed a new action plan to improve mental health services in Northern Ireland.
Our Four Nations Lead Steve Mulligan says he’s pleased the plan aims to increase counselling provision in primary care.
And he wants to work with Health Minister Robin Swann and his department to ensure counselling and psychotherapy plays its role in the front line of mental health support.
“The new Mental Health Action Plan provides much needed impetus to urgently improve access to mental health support in Northern Ireland,” said Steve.
“We’re pleased to see it includes an important ambition to increase uptake on counselling provision in primary care and to expand both geographical coverage and quality of service of psychological therapies hubs.
“It’s also pleasing to see an ambition to develop specialist perinatal mental health services.
“We see this as an important staging post towards the development of a ten-year funded mental health strategy and we’re keen to work with the Health Minister, his department and the new Mental Health Champion to ensure the counselling and psychotherapy workforce is a key part of the front line of mental health support in Northern Ireland.
“We know Covid-19 is further exacerbating the already challenging mental health situation in Northern Ireland and this will need to be further reflected in increased ambition and resource within the new Ten Year Strategy,” Steve added.
The plan contains 38 actions, including a commitment to a mental health strategy, which will include a comprehensive funding plan for mental health. There is also a plan for dealing with the response to the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Swann said: “Since taking up post as Minister for Health, I’ve been clear that mental health is a priority for me.
“The Mental Health Action Plan is the first in a series of steps I will take to ensure those suffering from mental ill health will be able to access the services they need, when they need them.
“The importance of this has been brought into sharp focus during these unprecedented times, when the mental health of the population is suffering as a result of the devastating impact of covid-19.
“That is why the Action Plan includes a dedicated COVID-19 response plan which outlines the psychological wellbeing and mental health response to the current pandemic.”
He added: “I’m delighted to announce specialist perinatal mental health services, the development of managed care networks for child and adolescent mental health services and forensic mental health services. In addition, there will be further support for mental health in primary care.”