Alex Easton MLA calls for immediate and quicker access to Counselling Services for those suffering from mental health issues.

Alex Easton said:

“Northern Ireland has higher rates of self-harm and 25% more mental health problems than the rest of the UK, Alex Easton has said. That is why it is a priority for me as an MLA. Whilst there has been extra funding of £10m per year for five years to be targeted at improving our mental health services this is not enough. That money is being used and making a difference but we could have done so much more had there been a local Health Minister driving forward change instead of politicians talking about change its time for delivery and action. We need talking therapies, and drug and alcohol misuse help urgently, and a real bug bearer for me is accessibility for quick assess to Counselling Services which does not take weeks or months and we should be making use of independent Counselling services to make up the shortfall.

To make a difference in mental health, funding new mental health workers in primary care for example must be a priority, and I want to see more child and adolescent specialist support within these multidisciplinary teams, I want to see free access to Gym for a month for those suffering from Mental health issues.

Multi-Agency Triage has also been introduced involving two police officers, a mental health nurse and a paramedic working together to respond to people with mental health problems, and new crisis intervention/ de-escalation services have been commenced in Londonderry and Belfast.

Mental ill-health is impacting families in every street. There is a legacy from the Troubles, also carried forward amongst today’s generation, which we must address. In my Plan, I am committed to work towards narrowing the gap between the funding of physical health services and mental health. want to see a more preventative approach by building resilience and focusing on coping skills.

I have a range of proposals to improve mental health services by providing more community psychiatry services, enhanced regional perinatal mental health services and better preventative work in schools, immediate access to Counselling services in the private setting to help reduce waiting list times with access to the Health Service Counselling sometimes taking months paid for from the health budget. I also want to see the full implementation of the Mental Capacity Act permitting individuals to make their own decisions.

We can only deliver certain changes for mental services, with real fundamental change being the preserve of a local Minister but it’s time for less talk and more action for our people. It is high time others recognised that their narrow party political wish list is not more important than the delivery of mental health and other key services for all the people of Northern Ireland.”