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Mental Health Rights Campaign groups says exclusion of mental health information is a massive oversight given NI’s alarming suicide rates and one that should be easily fixed 

 


 

The Mental Health Rights Campaign group, which includes people affected by mental health issues and families bereaved by suicide, will present new Health Minister, Jim Wells with almost 1000  pledges of support from across Northern Ireland.  Support has also been received from MLAs from all parties at the Stormont Health Committee.

 

The group has secured a meeting with the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), which is responsible for the “Choose Well” campaign, for later this month.  They will call on the Minister to ensure that the HSC Board take no decisions to finalise the campaign without first including information about where those in mental health distress should go for help and also involving those with experience of mental health problems themselves. The last 'Choose Well' campaign ran between Autumn 2013 and March 2014 at a cost of £167,000. 

 

North Belfast’s Grace Cassidy, whose son attempted to take his own life two weeks after being discharged from hospital, and who is part of the Mental Health Rights Campaign comments:

“This campaign is called ‘Choose Well’ but for those of us needing mental health care, it gives us no choice. We know from our own experience that the impact of information not being there is massive. Trying to find information about where to go for help when you are in crisis is not only distressing for the person but also for their families. You need the information urgently.

 

“People like us who have direct experience of accessing mental health service know a lot about how things could be improved. We want those in charge of Choose Well to make sure that the information included on mental health is exactly what those in crisis and their families really need.”

The Choose Well campaign was originally developed in England and Wales and rolled out in Northern Ireland last year, partly as a response to a rise in waiting times at A&Es. The move to replicate the campaign without making the necessary readjustments to reflect the higher than average rates of suicide here has been questioned. Last year 303 deaths by suicide were recorded in Northern Ireland, with suicide rates in parts of Northern Ireland previously having been cited amongst the highest in Western Europe.

 

Stephanie Green, Local Development Worker with Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) organisation, which was founded by human rights activist the late Inez McCormack, and which supports the Mental Health Rights Campaign, adds:

 

“Excluding information on mental health from the Choose Well campaign up until now is a massive oversight – but one that is easily fixed. Our research has found that 9 out of 10 people do not feel they have enough information on where to go to access mental health care As this information campaign is costing a significant amount of public money, it is simple common sense to include mental health, particularly as Northern Ireland has some of the highest rates of suicide in Western Europe. 

 

“Access to information about health care options is a human rights issue. This means ultimately it is the Minister who is responsible. We are calling on him to ensure the campaign serves the needs of as many people as possible, so that those seeking help for mental health issues are given every opportunity to get it.”

The Mental Health Rights campaign has received international support from Professor Paul Hunt, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health. Endorsing the urgent call Professor Hunt said:

“For people in mental health crisis, it is crucial that they are able to get help quickly. Having clear information about where you can access care for a health condition is a vital part of a State’s obligation to ensure it is realising the human right to an adequate standard of health. I strongly commend the groups involved with the Mental Health Rights Campaign in their work to ensure information is made available as widely as possible for those with mental health issues.”